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Title: Spinster of This Parish
Author: Maxwell, W. B. (William Babington)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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BOOKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR


NOVELS

    A LITTLE MORE
    FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE
    GLAMOUR
    THE MIRROR AND THE LAMP
    THE DEVIL’S GARDEN
    GENERAL MALLOCK’S SHADOW
    IN COTTON WOOL
    MRS. THOMPSON
    THE REST CURE
    SEYMOUR CHARLTON
    HILL RISE
    THE GUARDED FLAME
    VIVIEN
    THE RAGGED MESSENGER
    THE COUNTESS OF MAYBURY


SHORT STORIES

    LIFE CAN NEVER BE THE SAME
    ODD LENGTHS
    FABULOUS FANCIES



                             SPINSTER
                          OF THIS PARISH

                                BY
                           W. B. MAXWELL

                          [Illustration]

                             NEW YORK
                      DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
                               1922



                          COPYRIGHT, 1922
                   BY DODD, MEAD & COMPANY, INC.


           THE PLIMPTON PRESS · NORWOOD · MASSACHUSETTS
              PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



SPINSTER OF THIS PARISH



AUTHOR’S NOTE


  Neither the characters nor the incidents of this story are in any
  way drawn from persons or events of real life; and in passages
  where the names of the living or the dead have been mentioned,
  they thus appear merely because the omission of them seemed
  impossible (in such a context) by reason of the world-wide fame
  of their holders.



SPINSTER OF THIS PARISH



CHAPTER I


It had been an odd impulse that made little Mildred Parker seek
counsel and advice, or at least sympathy, from Miss Verinder in
the first great crisis of her young life. The imperious necessity
of opening her heart to somebody had of course lain behind the
impulse, and Miss Verinder, although really only an acquaintance of
Mildred’s parents, had been unusually kind and friendly to Mildred
herself; but now, sitting in the drawing-room of Miss Verinder’s
flat, listening to Miss Verinder’s pleasant emotionless voice,
watching Miss Verinder with methodic care put away small odds and
ends in an antique bureau, she felt the huge incongruity that there
would be in speaking of love to an old maid of fifty.

“I won’t be a minute,” said Miss Verinder.

“I am not in the least hurry,” said Mildred quite untruthfully.

Waiting and watching, she thought that fifty years of age is
nothing nowadays--if you are not an old maid, and if you decorate
yourself properly. Some women of fifty are still dangerously
attractive--they act leading parts on the stage, they appear in
divorce cases, they marry their third husbands. But when once you
have allowed old maidishness to take possession of you!

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” said Miss
Verinder, closing a drawer and speaking as if to herself rather
than to a visitor. “That is a good motto, isn’t it?” And she began
to flick a silk handkerchief. “These are souvenirs--with only a
sentimental value.”

Mildred glanced round the room. At the far end there were windows,
through which one saw the shredded stem and drooping branches of
a large plane tree, all transparent green and fiery orange now in
the sunlight of a September afternoon; near the window at the other
end there was a cage with a somnolent grey parrot; a singularly
clean white cat lay stretching itself lazily on the seat of a
chintz-covered chair; and everywhere there showed the neatness and
order as well as the prettiness and taste that are only possible
in rooms altogether free from the disturbing presence of clumsy
man. Mildred, feeling more and more enervated, spoke admiringly but
abruptly.

“I do like your flat, Miss Verinder.”

“It is convenient, isn’t it?” said Miss Verinder. “So close to the
Brompton Road, so near everything. Strictly speaking,” she added
with gentle precision, “it is not a flat at all, but what they
call a maisonette. That straight staircase--almost like a ladder,
isn’t it?--has been as it were stolen from the auctioneer’s offices
on the ground floor; and it forms quite a private entrance. I
prefer that. It gives a feeling,”--and she made a graceful vague
gesture. “I think Oratory Gardens is the only place where you
find flats constructed on this principle. I considered myself
lucky in securing the lease--many years ago, you know. I wanted
to be just here, because I have so many associations with this
neighbourhood--the whole neighbourhood--as far as Kensington Gore
and Knightsbridge, but not south or west, you know. I like the
sight of the tree too.”

For a few moments she ceased dusting the small objects on the flap
of the bureau and stood at the window, looking out; a tall thin
dark figure with the sunlight behind her.

“It sometimes makes me feel as if I were miles away from
Kensington”; and she gently nodded her head and half closed her
eyes. “Far in the country. On the other side of the world, even.”

She was really a very charming, well-bred, elegant woman; and once
upon a time, a long while ago, when those eyes of hers were full
of brightness and lustre, when her sensitive lips were redder,
when her pale unwrinkled cheeks had permanent colour instead of
the fitful pinkness that now came and went so delicately, she must
have been quite good-looking. Possibly she might then have been
fascinating also. Her hair was really good, dark and strong, rolled
in bulky waves about her forehead and in a lump at the back of her
neck.

It was the demureness, the air of patience, endurance, and
submissiveness proper to her age and condition, that spoilt her
general effect and made her just a little dowdy, although always
beautifully dressed. Even in the moment of recognising a certain
natural feminine charm one sought for and found the stigmata of
spinsterhood. She had no mannerisms, affectations, or silly tricks;
and nevertheless.--But there is the bother of it. How and why do
we judge people or form any opinion concerning them? As soon as
you think you know what a woman is you begin to think she looks
like what you have decided her to be. Perhaps one merely imagined
and did not really see that outward suggestion of untilled fields,
autumn leaves, and faded flowers, which has come to symbolise a
particular combination of loneliness and neglect.

Essentially, she appeared to be spinsterhood personified. She stood
so very much alone. Although, as was known, she had relatives,
she did not appear to preserve any close intercourse with them.
One never met robust full-blooded nieces putting up at the flat
with “darling Aunt Emmeline” for a night or two; she showed you no
portraits of middle-aged brothers and sisters, or snap-shots of
children in embroidered aprons and sailor hats, the representatives
of a budding generation; there was not even a ne’er-do-well nephew
in the background, emerging into the foreground from time to time
and extracting financial assistance as he passed through London on
the way from Harrow to Sandhurst and from Sandhurst to his regiment.

Thus it seemed that the attitude of uninvolved spectator or
disinterested critic of all that matters in life had been
irrevocably forced upon her, and that, as in all such typical
cases, she had taken up feeble little secondary interests to fill
the vast blank spaces that should have been occupied by prime
ones. She attended concerts, lectures, classes; played bridge for
mild points; drank weak tea and nibbled dry biscuits at afternoon
parties. Sometimes, abruptly going away by herself, she was absent
for long periods; and one imagined her, charmingly and suitably
dressed as usual, say in the solitude of Dartmoor, translating
its purple heather and golden skies into the wishy-washy tints of
her sketch-book; or gathering a sprig of fern near the Castle of
Chillon in order to place it later between the pages of Byron’s
poem--in a word, one imagined her travelling as old maids with
ample means have always done, changing the outward scene but never
the mental atmosphere. Occasionally, too, she shut herself in the
flat, for weeks at a time, refusing to see anybody; and then one
surmised that she was passing through those phases of nervous
distress or semi-hysteria from the experience of which old maids
can scarcely hope to escape altogether.

Naturally she offered a strong contrast to the very modern young
lady of twenty sitting on one of the sofas, playing with her
gauntlet gloves, and brimming over with youthfulness and ardent
irrepressible life.

Mildred looked very pretty in her scant frock, low bodice, and
short sleeves; after the manner of modern girls seeming, perhaps,
a little commonplace or ordinary because so like so many others of
her class and years, at once doll-like and self-possessed, shrewd
and yet innocent. She was, or at least believed herself to be,
entirely modern; although at the moment occupied with elemental
things.

“Now,” said Miss Verinder, “I am all attention,” and she came from
the bureau and drew a chair to the sofa.

“I’m so glad I’ve caught you alone,” said Mildred feebly.

“Well, my dear Mildred,” said Miss Verinder, “I am purposely
alone, because, when I received your little note saying you wished
to see me--I don’t know why--but somehow I had the suspicion that
there was something you wanted to tell me, or to talk about.”

“Oh, Miss Verinder! How kind--how very kind!” said Mildred in a
gush of gratitude.

Indeed this divination seemed to her a most striking proof of
Miss Verinder’s power of sympathy; her own instinct had been
correct; she was glad she had come here. She went on impulsively
and confidently; telling Miss Verinder how she had half mooted the
subject of her troubles to two comfortable matrons, but in each
case she had felt rebuffed and had immediately “curled up,” feeling
certain that neither would give her any help, but rather take the
side of her family against her. Then she had made up her mind to
tell Miss Verinder all about it.

“I knew you’d help me if you could, dear Miss Verinder. You _have_
been so nice to me ever since we first met--and, I know it sounds
conceited, but I felt you did really like me.”

“I do like you very much,” said Miss Verinder simply and
affectionately; and she stretched out her hand and gave a little
squeeze to one of Mildred’s soft warm paws. Then she folded her
hands on her lap again.

“Thank you so much. I think you’re just an angel, Miss Verinder.”

“Why always Miss Verinder? Why don’t you call me Emmeline?”

“Oh, I _couldn’t_,” said Mildred, flattered but overwhelmed by this
surprising invitation. “It would seem such awful cheek.”

“Am I so venerable and forbidding?” asked Miss Verinder, with mild
reproach.

“Of _course_ not,” said Mildred eagerly. “No, I shall be
delighted, if you’ll really let me. I think it’s absolutely sweet
of you--Emmeline. Well now, Emmeline,”--and Mildred repeated
the name firmly, as if feeling great satisfaction in using this
unceremonious form of address;--“The fact is, Emmeline--”

And with a voluble flood she narrated how she had fallen deeply and
perhaps even foolishly in love with a young man; how Mr. and Mrs.
Parker had made a monstrous absurd fuss about it; and how, because
of it, the once comfortable home in Ennismore Gardens was swept
with tempest, wrath, and pain.

“You understand, Emmeline? I mean to say, they really are behaving
like people who have been bitten by a mad dog. In one way, I mean
to say--you know--it’s all too ridiculous for words. The things
they say! The things, don’t you know, they threaten to do. Well, I
mean to say--”

Mildred’s eyes were flashing, she pulled her gloves from hand to
hand, and, prattling on, became so involved with mean-to-says and
don’t-you-knows that she floundered suddenly to silence.

“Emmeline,” and she changed her position on the sofa, “I think I’d
better start at the very beginning.”

“That is always a good place to start at,” said Miss Verinder,
smiling sympathetically.

“Then what I want you to understand is that I’m very much in
earnest. It’s no silliness--or infatuation, as mother says--or any
rot of that sort. It’s the real thing.” As she said this Mildred’s
pretty commonplace little face became all soft and tender, her lips
quivered, and in spite of her modernity she had the aspect of a
quite small child who will burst into tears if you speak harshly to
it. “You must understand,” and she suddenly turned her head away,
“I wasn’t even thinking of love--much less hunting for it. It came
upon me like a thunderclap.”

“Like a thunderclap!” Miss Verinder echoed the words, and drew in
her breath, making the sound of a faint sigh. “Go on, Mildred dear.”

“Well then,” and Mildred looked round again, with a child-like air
of triumph. “I would have you to know also that the man I’ve fallen
in love with is very famous.”

Miss Verinder started and looked at her intently.

“But it’s nothing to do with his fame that has made me love him.”

Again Miss Verinder started, slightly.

“Of course I don’t mean to say that I wasn’t influenced by all
that. You know what I mean? Seeing his photographs in the papers!
Hearing what other girls said about him. And I own that I admired
him before I knew him, but it was for himself and nothing else that
I fell in love with him directly I did get to know him. The fact
that he was celebrated and a favourite of the public was nothing
then.”

And, now fairly started, Mildred opened her heart as she had
never done before. She told Miss Verinder all she felt of the
torturing bliss and exquisite pain that honest straightforward
young girls suffer when this most potent of fevers catches them
without warning, like a thunderclap. The tale of Mildred’s frenzied
longings and cravings and hopes and fears brought faint old-maidish
blushes to the smooth ivory of Miss Verinder’s cheeks. It was as
though Mildred, like a small house on fire, had lit up a faint
reflection in the far distance of a tranquil evening sky.

“There,” said Mildred, ceasing to flash and becoming quite calm.
“Oh, Emmeline, that _has_ done me good--even if you can’t help me.
You know what I mean? Just to get it off one’s chest for once.”
And then she laughed in a deprecating manner. “But I’m afraid I’m
shocking you most frightfully.”

“No, my dear,” said Miss Verinder, “you are not shocking me in the
least.”

“You _are_ so kind. Well then, now you _do_ see I’m in earnest, and
how ridiculous it is for one’s people--”

“Yes. But who is he, Mildred? You haven’t told me yet.”

“Alwyn Beckett,” said Mildred looking confident and triumphant.

But great as was Miss Verinder’s sympathy, she could not make
her face show any signs of intelligent recognition. She reminded
Mildred that she lived very much out of the world. It would
naturally appear ignorant and stupid, but she felt forced again to
ask the question: Who is he?

“The actor,” said Mildred.

“Oh, yes,” said Miss Verinder. “You must not be surprised if I
don’t know him by reputation, because I never go to the play, and
am quite out of touch with theatrical people”; and she paused,
smiling as if involuntarily amused by some secret thought. “The
utmost I do in that direction is occasionally to go to one of these
cinema theatres.”

“Oh, but he is on the films too,” said Mildred proudly.

“In what piece is he acting at the present time?”

“He is understudying the two big parts in _Five Old Men and a Dog_.”

“Ah, yes?”

Then Mildred burst forth about her family. “Of course I know they
can’t keep us apart. Of course they’ve no right to interfere with
me. But it isn’t exactly that. Good gracious, no, this is 1920, not
1820. Of course they can do what they’re doing now--I mean to say,
just making hell for me at home. It’s irritating, but I must put up
with it. Only I simply can’t stand their attitude to Alwyn”; and
Mildred grew warm. “What are they, I’d like to know--to look down
upon the stage!”

Miss Verinder said that the notion of treating the stage with
contempt did certainly sound rather old-fashioned nowadays.

“Old-fashioned! I should think so. Even if they were anybody--which
they aren’t. Do you know what my grandfather was? No. Well, I don’t
myself. Father’s been jolly careful to prevent us knowing; but I
know this--he wasn’t a gentleman. I mean, he hadn’t the smallest
pretensions to being one. It was up in the north, and I believe
he was just a person in a shop; you know, not owning the shop,
but serving behind the counter--and he married grannie for her
money. She wasn’t anything either. The elderly ugly daughter of
some manufacturing people. But by a fluke of luck her share in the
business somehow turned up trumps, so that while father was still
a boy they were rich, and able to send him to Rugby and Cambridge.
Then, when grandfather died, he and mother came to London, and
bought the house in Ennismore Gardens.” Saying this, Mildred
laughed scornfully. “Yes, and amused themselves by pretending that
they’ve lived in it for ten generations.”

“They could hardly have done that,” said Miss Verinder, smiling;
“because Ennismore Gardens have not been built long enough.”

“No, exactly. But you know what I mean”; and Mildred spoke with
almost tragic force. “Father’s just a snob, and mother’s every bit
as bad.”

Miss Verinder reproved her for speaking disrespectfully of her
parents.

“I know, I know, Emmeline;” and Mildred hastened to assure her that
till now she had always been fond of her parents--“poor dears.” She
had been loyal too, entering into their little foolishnesses, never
giving the show away; and she could feel fond of them again, if
only they would behave decently.

Miss Verinder asked, “Do they really base their objections
to--Forgive me, dear. What is his name again? Mr. Beckett. Yes, of
course. Well, do they only base their objection on the fact that he
is an actor?”

A crimson wave of indignation flowed upward from Mildred’s neck to
her forehead, while she explained how they had the effrontery to
say their real objection was--not so much that he was an actor, as
that he was a bad actor.

“Who are they to judge?” said Mildred hotly; and for a space she
held forth concerning the young man’s brilliant talent.

Miss Verinder asking how matters stood at the moment, Mildred
told her that the outrageous Mr. Parker had simply forbidden them
to meet. “But we _do_ meet of course.” And with a few words she
conjured up a picture of their clandestine meetings late at night
in Ennismore Gardens itself--he driving as fast as taxi-cab would
bring him from the theatre, she slipping out of the house to wait
for him, and the two of them pacing slowly through that columned
entrance by the mews and along the passage by the churchyard,
in the warm darkness beneath the trees; peered at curiously
by soft-footed policemen; encountering, as it seemed, all the
servant-maids of the neighbourhood similarly engaged with _their_
sweethearts. “Isn’t it degrading, Emmeline, to be forced to do such
a thing?”

And again she spoke of love and its invincible claims. She knew,
she said, that her destiny was all in her own hands. If she lost
Alwyn, she would have herself to thank, and it would be no use to
put the blame on anybody else. It was this thought that sometimes
made her feel desperate--and Alwyn too. Her parents could not
of course really come between them. But then there is the money
question. What they _can_ do is just to cut her off without a
penny; and really, seeing them behave like such pigs, one could
believe them capable of doing it. Well, that is not fair. That is
tommy rot. Suppose, after all, darling Alwyn should prove, not a
bad actor, but hardly quite the tremendous one that she hopes he
is; then, in that case, if they had a proper settlement--“the usual
thing,” with parents as well-off as hers--she could take him off
the stage. There were heaps of things she could do with him. Or
if--as is far more probable--he makes a colossal success, money
will be useful to set him up in management. You must look ahead;
although, when you are madly in love, it is difficult to do so.

Miss Verinder, watching her thoughtfully, inquired if all these
ideas had been prompted by Alwyn himself; and Mildred said no,
he was a thousand miles above such considerations. He cared for
nothing but her.

“Emmeline--as I say, you’re so awfully kind, and I do feel that
I need a word of advice from someone older than myself.” At this
point of the interview, it was curious to observe in Mildred that
mixture of shrewdness and innocence which makes the typical modern
girl seem at once so shallow and so baffling. She still playfully
tormented the yellow gauntlet gloves; her eyes shone with childish
candour; but there was something a little hard and business-like
about the red lips that only a moment ago had been pouting
petulantly. “My own inclination is to chuck over everything and do
something desperate--you know, just to run off with him.”

“And marry him without your parents’ consent?”

“Or _not_ marry him,” said Mildred, pulling at her gloves.

“Mildred!” said Miss Verinder, with a little cry. “What _do_ you
mean?”

“Well, what I mean,” said Mildred, “is that if they’re so damned
old-fashioned, I don’t see why they shouldn’t stew in their own
gravy--at least for a bit. Don’t you see? When they find I’m gone,
in _that_ way, if they’re really genuine in their feelings, it will
be the regular Mid-Victorian business. The lost child--our daughter
gone to perdition. Get her married now to the scoundrel that has
lured her away. Make her an honest woman at any price--and, by
Jove,” said Mildred, with a little ripple of innocent laughter,
“I’ll jolly well make them pay the price. You know, no more than is
right--the usual. I don’t mean blackmailing them or anything like
that.”

“Mildred,” said Miss Verinder, with an unexpectedly firm tone of
voice, “you and I must talk very seriously. And you must listen to
me, dear, and not be impatient if what I urge--Ah, yes.”

Interrupted by the opening of the door, she checked herself.

It was the faithful maid Louisa--a grey-haired woman older than
Miss Verinder, neat yet stately in her black dress and black silk
apron; just such an efficient long-tried maid-housekeeper as one
would expect such a mistress to have. Louisa was bringing them tea.
At sight of her the white cat dropped heavily from its easy chair,
stalked forward, and rubbed itself against Miss Verinder’s ankles;
while the grey parrot as promptly awoke, flapped its wings, and
screamed. Tea meant something to these two dependents.

“Look sharp, Louisa,” said the parrot, expressing the wish of both
in a gruff monotone. “Look sharp, Louisa. Louisa. Louisa.”

Louisa, bringing a collapsible table from the wall, smiled sedately.

“He always says that,” Miss Verinder explained. “It was taught to
him a long time ago--and with great difficulty. Only as a joke,”
she added. “For Louisa is always up to time--very much on the spot,
as you young people say.”

Louisa opened the table in front of her mistress, brought the tea
tray with kettle and tea-pot; went out again and returned with
trays carrying cakes, bread and butter, and so forth, which she
placed on smaller tables; finally brought a silver tea-caddy, and
lit the lamp under the kettle.

“It is just on the boil, miss.”

“Thank you, Louisa.”

Then Miss Verinder made the tea. Mildred watched her, fascinated
although preoccupied; it was all so neat and careful and methodic.
“One spoonful for you and one for me.” After warming the tea-pot
with a very little hot water, Miss Verinder was using not a spoon
but a queer little silver shovel to put in the tea. “One for the
pot--and one for luck! Now, dear, you see that bolt beneath the
kettle? Pull it out for me, will you? That’s it.” And for a moment
she was almost invisible as the steam rose. “Louisa never fails me.
She knows the proverb that ‘If the water not boiling be, filling
the tea-pot spoils the tea.’ One lump or two?”

In spite of emotion, or because of it, Mildred was hungry; and she
ate freely of the thin bread and butter and the sugar-covered cake,
till gradually these dainties seemed to turn to dust and ashes in
her mouth while she listened to Miss Verinder’s advice.

Miss Verinder indeed displayed an astoundingly accurate
comprehension of her young friend’s state of mind; but truly every
word she said might have been heard with cordial approval by Mr.
and Mrs. Parker themselves had they been present.

Mildred must not be silly; Mildred must be a sensible girl; Mildred
must summon patience to her aid, consider other people’s feelings
as well as her own, allow time to work on her behalf.

Mildred put down her tea-cup with a nervous jerk; she was bitterly
disappointed; and yet what different sort of advice could she have
expected from the owner of this room, with its caged bird, its
cat of dubious gender, its chintzes, water colour drawings, and
embroidered footstool--this room used only by elderly women, in
which the sound of a real man’s voice had never once been heard?
Clergymen came here no doubt for subscriptions; and faded old
bachelors, like old maids themselves, to gossip amiably--of books,
china, pictures, or anything else without any real life in it.
Completely enervated, Mildred felt again that sense of fantastic
incongruity between the subject of her late discourse and its
auditor. As well might she have gone to the nuns at Roehampton and
told her tale there.

Moreover, while talking, Miss Verinder performed certain little
actions which, as Mildred guessed, had become purely automatic
from long habit--such as pouring out milk and tea in a saucer and
placing it on the floor for the cat, going across the room and
inserting morsels of the sugary cake between the cage bars for the
parrot. Nevertheless, although thus to be interpreted, they added
to the girl’s distress.

Miss Verinder went on talking with earnestness and affection. She
would help, to the best of her ability, she would take the first
chance of a chat with Mrs. Parker. But really and truly it is all
nonsense to speak of kicking over the traces, outraging propriety
or convention, and that sort of thing. Mildred must wait. At any
rate, one must not give way to one’s passions.

Then Mildred blurted it out; clothed her thought in very plain
words. “But, dear Miss Verinder, perhaps you don’t know what the
passions are.”

“Why should you assume that?” said Miss Verinder gently.

Mildred apologised for a stupid phrase or explained it away.
Unconsciously she had ceased to address Miss Verinder by her
Christian name, and she pleaded with great strength for her own
point of view. It was the fiery cry of youth. Whatever else you can
do when you are young--so she said in effect--there is one thing
you cannot do, and that is, _wait_.

“Miss Verinder, I feel that I want us to be bound
together--now--and forever. Suppose we put it off, who can say
what would happen? Accidents--anything--He might grow tired of
waiting--or--or change his mind.”

“Oh, no, dear. If there is any chance of that, it is all the more
reason for not being in a hurry.”

“Miss Verinder, I believe you think I’m horrid about it; but on my
honour I’m not. My love for Alwyn and his for me is a _nice_ love.
Really and truly it is.”

“I’m quite sure yours is.”

“His too.” Suddenly and unexpectedly Mildred began to cry. She did
not gasp or sob; her lips trembled, her eyes filled with tears,
overflowed, and in a moment her whole face was wet, looking like
the face of a child of six who has been caught in an April shower.
She dabbed it with a totally inadequate handkerchief to prevent
the drops from falling on her pretty frock, and continued talking.
She herself looked prettier now than at any time during the visit;
that touch of calculating sagacity, with all other attributes of
modernness, had gone; only the natural innocence and simplicity
remained. “When we have been together for hours and hours--alone
together--up the river--anywhere--sometimes he hasn’t even once
kissed me. And at the time I haven’t even noticed it. I’ve only
thought of it afterwards, you know. We have been just perfectly
happy being together--not wanting anything else on earth. Miss
Verinder, you see what I mean? I only tell you to _make_ you see
what our love is. It’s because of it that I’m sure of myself--yes,
Miss Verinder, I am really.”

And dabbing her eyes with vigour, she emphasised the argument
that in linking yourself to anyone of the other sex you are quite
safe when you find the desired companion as well as the lover.
Companionship with Alwyn was the essential thing for which she
longed. It would be too dreadful to lose it--to risk losing it.
Suppose she let the chance slip, suppose she allowed Fate acting
under the more usual title of Accident to rob her of this felicity,
it was probable that she would never meet anybody else for whom
she could care in the same way, or even so much as “the snuff of
a candle.” She would be spiritually alone forever. Under such
conditions she felt that she simply could not face her life;
and, carried away with emotion and momentarily forgetful of the
personage she addressed, she sketched vividly the situation of a
middle-aged, soon-to-be old spinster--alone, with nothing to hope
for.

“But one always goes on hoping,” said Miss Verinder firmly.

She said the words indeed with such quiet strength that Mildred,
startled and surprised, asked her what she meant.

Miss Verinder did not answer explicitly. She came and sat beside
Mildred on the sofa, put her arm round the girl’s slim waist, and
began to repeat or sum up the counsel that she had already given.

Mildred for a minute was quite unable to listen; she sat looking
at her wondering. One always goes on hoping! What an extraordinary
queer thing to say. Could it be possible that Miss Verinder still
tried to brighten the cold monotony of life with sentimental or
romantic dreams--did she at her age still cherish the idea that a
knight would one day come to smash the prison bars of solitude,
break the chains of habit, and lead her out into freedom and
light--did she, poor dear kind soul, still really hope there was
somewhere on this broad strange earth a man stout enough and bold
enough to save her from dying as an old maid? These questioning
thoughts touched little Mildred’s heart with something far
removed from mirth, rather a pitying pain. They drove away her
self-absorbed emotion; they steadied her.

“Yes, Miss Verinder, I am really giving weight to everything you
say.”

Miss Verinder was gently yet firmly summing up. Mildred must
promise not to act rashly. In time--the young man proving patient
and worthy--her parents may agree to an engagement. In time--they
shewing themselves obdurate and unreasonable--one can begin to
think of marriage without their consent. But this suggestion of an
unsanctified bolt, an irregular union, entered into for whatever
aim or purpose--oh, no, never.

“Believe me, Mildred dear, it is only the very strongest characters
that can brave public opinion--and you must remember, public
opinion is represented by your father and mother. Yes, I am
sure--to go right through with anything of that kind, immense
self-control, really almost an iron nerve is required. That is, if
it is to be done successfully.

“And, Mildred,” said Miss Verinder, with an affectionate pressure
of the surrounding arm, “You mustn’t think I don’t know what I am
talking about. I don’t want you to dismiss me as antiquated and
squeamish.”

“Oh, no, Miss Verinder.”

“As you said, this is 1920; and people are always saying how
tremendously the world has changed; but I often think the changes
are not as big as people pretend--I think they are most of them on
the surface, as it were, and not going deep. Of course, when I was
young, girls had much less freedom. Oh, yes, much less--and people
will tell you that girls now can do what they like, and do do it.”
Saying this, Miss Verinder had a demure little smile. “So to speak,
girls are allowed to govern almost everything--but then they must
never omit to govern themselves. Oh, no, Mildred,” and she shook
her head. “In _that_, public opinion is quite unchanged. I mean for
people of _our_ class, Mildred. For those above us and below us it
may be quite different. I can’t say. But you’re not a barmaid or a
duchess either--are you?”

“No, Miss Verinder,” said Mildred meekly.

“And you have to think of your Alwyn and the effect it might
produce on him. There is the danger that he might fail you in a
way you haven’t considered. No, no--I don’t for a moment mean
play you false. Oh, no. But, perhaps, it is only the very finest
natures that can--accept--ah--this particular kind of surrender or
self-sacrifice from a woman and still hold her quite as high in
their minds as they did before--ah--the surrender occurred.

“There, Mildred dear. I am going to help you for all I am worth,
and you are going to be wise. And don’t--I beg you--forget this. I
have my reasons for all I have said.”

Mildred, nipping through the traffic of the Brompton Road with the
composure and agility of up-to-date girls, and then making her
way thoughtfully past the Oratory and into Ennismore Gardens, was
wondering what were Miss Verinder’s reasons.



CHAPTER II


Miss Verinder’s reasons were as follows: In the year 1895, when
Queen Victoria still reigned upon the throne, when people still
talked of the London season and described it as being good or bad,
a brilliant season or a dull season, Emmeline Verinder was living
very comfortably with her parents in one of the largest houses of
Prince’s Gate. Then, unexpectedly and for the first time, she and
love bowed, touched hands, and made acquaintance. The thing came
upon her like a thunder-clap.

It began on a June evening just before midnight; and Mr. Verinder,
her father, thinking afterwards of that summer night, used to feel
a kind of warm prickly irritation, as though one of Destiny’s
invisible imps was teasing the back of his stout neck with stinging
nettles. It might have happened anyhow, but he could not banish
the annoying recollection that he himself had assisted in getting
it started. When his wife placidly asked whether the effort was
worth while, it was he who had decided that, having accepted the
invitation, they must certainly go to Mrs. Clutton’s musical party.

And he had said so not truly because he desired to go, but because
of vague, almost organic sensations which told him that if you are
a well-preserved man of sixty who is also a personage of a certain
importance, who lives in Prince’s Gate, with plenty of money,
horses, carriages, an ample ornate wife, one charming beautifully
dressed single daughter, and another daughter, married, but now
staying on a visit under your roof--when you find yourself so
situated and so surrounded, there is something inadequate and
unimpressive if you go to bed at eleven o’clock in the height of
the London season.

They went, then, the four of them; he, Mrs. Verinder, Emmeline, and
Margaret Pratt, her married sister--down the newly-named Exhibition
Road, round the corner to one of the largest houses in the Cromwell
Road. There would have been space in the closed landau for Eustace,
the son and brother; he could have sat between Emmeline and
Margaret; but he was attending a banquet as the guest of a city
company.

There had been a dinner-party at Mrs. Clutton’s and the Verinders
with many others were asked for the music. The concluding strains
of Tosti’s _Good-Bye_ floated down the staircase to meet them
as they entered the inner hall, through which Mr. Verinder’s
ladies swept onward to some library or boudoir at the back of the
building, now organised as a place for depositing velvet coats and
feathered wraps. Mr. Verinder, having been relieved of his coat and
opera hat, stood waiting for them--large, grey-headed, dignified,
and yet urbane, exchanging suave civilities with other prosperous
ladies and gentlemen, who had arrived just before him. It was a
typical evening party of the period--awning, drugget, and linkmen
outside; inside, a full pressure on the electric light; large
palms, together with masses of flowers brought in for the occasion;
extraneous help also in the dining-room, now set as a brilliant
supper scene; the servants of the house obliterated, or, at least,
standing back behind the numerous grave hirelings in white
waistcoats, who, but for their solemnity, might so easily have been
mistaken for some of Mrs. Clutton’s visitors.

It should be noted that at this period the neighbourhood still
had a distinct society of its own; not, of course, because the
antiquated country custom of calling on one another merely as
neighbours was practised by its residents, but because this
modern spacious end of the town, with no traditions earlier than
the Prince Consort, seemed to have been planned and constructed
for a particular class of which the members were likely to
foregather--fairly rich prosperous people, eminently respectable
if somewhat colourless people; merchants, bankers, judges of the
High Court, Queen’s counsel of the Parliamentary bar, heads of
departments in the civil service; here and there a doctor who had
been made a baronet, a successful recently knighted architect,
a chartered accountant doing government work, and so on. These
and their families meddled not at all, in the year 1895, with
fashion and aristocracy; punctual in the regulation attendance at
drawing-rooms and levées, but bringing no influence to bear in
order to secure command for state concerts and balls; prompt with
bouquet or curtsey when a princess opened one of their bazaars, but
never fawning on the lady-in-waiting with hints that it would be
a pleasure as well as an honour if her Royal Highness would come
to luncheon one day, at number so-and-so Prince’s Gardens; they
felt and were sufficient for themselves. Untempted by the lure of
a vanishing Bohemia, they did not traffic either with artistic
circles; they bought pictures and read books without desiring to
know the creators of such amenities; they enjoyed the play, but
thought a row of footlights a very sensible, useful barrier between
comedians of both sexes and the rest of the world.

Thus Mr. Verinder found himself immediately among his friends,
and soon learned of something a little unusual about to-night’s
assembly. Anthony Dyke, the famous explorer, was here. He had dined
here, and was now upstairs listening to the music.

“Oh, _that_ fellow,” said Mr. Verinder. “What a fuss they’re making
about him. You see his name everywhere. By the way, I rather
thought he was booked to dine with the Salmon-Curers’ Company this
evening. My son went there, quite expecting to have a peep at him.”

But old Sir Timothy Smith, given a knighthood last Christmas for
designing the market-hall of a northern city, assured Mr. Verinder
that the great man had dined with Mrs. Clutton and no one else.

“Refresh my memory about him,” said Mr. Verinder. “I remember the
Antarctic voyages. But what’s his latest?”

“Well, nothing since that astounding performance in the Andes.”

“Some of that has been questioned, hasn’t it? Travellers’ tales,
what!” said Mr. Verinder, with a large tolerant smile. “Ah, there
you are, my dear.”

Mrs. Verinder, sailing forth splendidly from the cloak-room, was at
his elbow.

“Dyke, the explorer, is here,” she said.

“Yes, so Sir Timothy was telling me. Lead on, my dear.”

And Mrs. Verinder led on, broad but splendid still in the
back-view, carrying her train with a stout round forearm, followed
by the grand young married lady and the slim demurely graceful
girl, and lastly by Mr. Verinder. As they went upstairs, the
music took a classical turn--a turn for the worse, Mr. Verinder
considered.

After an ill-timed stentorian announcement, they were received in
the midst of a few hushes, with silent cordiality by Mrs. Clutton.
She was amiable and friendly as ever, leading Mrs. Verinder to a
seat when the music stopped, but a little nervous or self-conscious
by reason of the presence of the lion of the season.

“Yes, the big man leaning against the wall.”

It would have been impossible to make any mistake. You could not
see him without recognising him--since his portrait had become so
familiar in the illustrated newspapers, as well as on the cover of
that remarkable book of his. And seeing him you could scarcely help
struggling hard to form a clear conception of what the man really
might be.

In size he was very big, but looking still bigger than the true
iron frame of him because of his loose garments--and one thought
at once that of course he hated all confinements and restrictions,
even those entailed by well-cut neatly-fitting clothes; with
dark hair, blue eyes, a reddish beard, and shoulders that seemed
too heavy; of enormous energy, the fire or lust for effort that
seems incomprehensibly to renew itself in the grossest excesses
of gratification; explosive and uncontrollable, as men like him
must always be, but with that curious streak of softness, even of
sentimentality, which goes sometimes with such characters. Just as
he looked bigger than his size, he looked older than his years; but
this impression may have been derived less from the marks and tints
left upon him by tempest and strife than from the known record of
his achievements. It was difficult to believe that he had done so
much and yet was only thirty-seven. Above all else, unavoidably
confusing judgment and driving one back to intuitions, there was a
glamour cast about him by the deeply proved quality of courage--a
glamour, it should be remembered, very much more rare and therefore
very much more potent and alluring then than now.

“Did you hear him laugh?”

Everybody was whispering about him, thinking of him, ostentatiously
taking no notice of him--except the privileged few who from time to
time were being presented to him.

After twenty minutes or so Mrs. Clutton introduced Mr. Verinder to
him, and they seemed to get on well together. Mr. Verinder, pleased
to show that he knew a good deal of geography, asked intelligent
questions, and felt flattered by the adventurer’s eager expansive
manner of giving full details in reply. Though he made you feel
small physically, he did not make you feel small mentally. He said
it was pleasant to be back in the old country, and agreed with
Mr. Verinder that--all said and done--there was no place like
London. Asked how long he intended to honour the metropolis with
his presence, he laughed, and said it depended on circumstances,
but he certainly should not stay more than a month or two. He was
“taking the hat round,” as he explained with a laugh, trying to
raise funds towards another Antarctic expedition. “The fact is, Mr.
Verinder”--and Mr. Verinder was not ill-pleased to observe that his
name had been picked up so quickly and correctly--“in my trade,
capital is very necessary. The most successful ventures are those
that are best fitted out. The more money you have behind you, the
further you go.”

“I’m afraid,” said Mr. Verinder, laughing in his turn, “that that
may be said of all other trades, Mr. Dyke, as well as yours; but I
quite understand what you mean. Equipment. Equipment. And no doubt
many risks could be minimized by foresight and wise outlay.”

Dyke became quite exuberant at finding Mr. Verinder so intelligent
and sympathetic; his loud open-air voice could be heard throughout
the length of Mrs. Clutton’s double drawing-room. He was giving
Mr. Verinder more and more details, with a child-like enthusiasm,
and he would not stop when the music began again. No one dared
say hush to him, but the decorum of Mr. Verinder’s manner
gradually restrained him. In regard to such interruptions, he
pleased Mr. Verinder most of all by declaring that this music was
incomprehensible to him--over his head; and at once concurring in
Mr. Verinder’s opinion that a ballad concert at the Albert Hall was
the real stuff, and laughing most heartily when Mr. Verinder said
that a just finished arrangement of Bach for the violin and piano
might, in the popular phrase, have been the tune the old cow died
of. Then, their relations having reached this very cordial stage,
Anthony Dyke said abruptly--“I’m a fish out of water here. I wonder
if by chance you could tell me the name of that girl over there.”

“Which one?” asked Mr. Verinder.

“That one,” said Dyke, not of course pointing with his hand in an
uncouth manner, but only making slight yet significant signs with
his dark eyebrows and blue eyes. “Now--the one using her fan. I’d
like to get somebody to introduce me to her.”

“I can supply the information, and gratify your wish,” said
Mr. Verinder, in a tone so urbane that it was robbed of any
pompousness. “She is my daughter.”

“Oh, really!” said Dyke, suddenly staring at him as if he didn’t
believe it. Then he laughed once more, but not loudly, shyly. “I
hope it didn’t sound odd my saying that. From living alone so much,
I bang out whatever comes into my mind. You must look on me as the
untutored savage and make excuses for me.”

“None are necessary,” said Mr. Verinder.

Emmeline, on the other side of the room, was engaged in
conversation with their friend Mrs. Bell, whose house was one of
the biggest in Queen’s Gate. Her father beckoned her; and as she
did not observe the signal, went across to fetch her, bringing her
back with him and feeling proud of her as something that belonged
to him and did him credit. Indeed, the circumstance that in a room
full of other well-dressed women she had drawn the attention of
this simple middle-aged wanderer, seemed a compliment to the whole
family.

He thought that she looked very nice as she stood there smiling,
after Mr. Dyke shook hands; so modest and quiet, so essentially
_ladylike_, so completely everything he would have wished; her eyes
shining, and a little colour in her usually rather pale cheeks,
brought there from the excitement caused by meeting a really
celebrated person; but with no shyness or awkwardness perceptible
in voice or manner--just a raising of the arched eyebrows above
the straight well-cut nose and that frank smile about the sweetly
gentle mouth in order to show courteous interest in everything
that was being said. The cream satin dress, too, with the silver
and pearl ornamentation straight across the bodice, the shoulder
puffs, the long white gloves, and the enormous fan, were all
exactly the right thing, all very becoming. Mr. Verinder liked
also, now that he considered the matter, this method of arranging
the dark hair--quite low on the forehead and ascending beneath
bands of gold ribbon to a high crest, brushed up from the back of
her neck, as you saw when she turned round, and secured by a broad
jewelled comb. This, the very latest mode, suited Emmeline. She
had plenty of hair. Her father felt well satisfied with Emmeline’s
appearance.

They all three remained talking together, and Dyke would not
relinquish the father and daughter when his hostess came and made
further introductions. He drew the new people into the talk or let
them slide altogether, but he hung on to the other two, moving with
them if they moved. Mr. Verinder had a good-humoured gratified
feeling that the lion had taken to him, and natural fierceness
had disappeared in impulsive affection; it was, so to speak, a
tame lion following him about, ready to eat out of his hand. But
lionising, like everything else in a well-regulated world, must
have its limits; you cannot neglect your duties at an evening party
to gratify a stranger’s hunger for your society, however famous
that stranger may be. Mr. Verinder wished to rejoin his wife, and,
using tact, he extricated himself. Yet his tact was not sufficient
to extricate Emmeline as well.

One saw them standing together on the staircase, and later they
were sitting together in a remote corner of the supper-room; he
still telling her wonderful things, so that one heard the boom of
his eager tones and the sound of her pretty girlish voice chiming
in--a flute helping, not interrupting the ’cello or the bigger
reeds. “Oh, but how exciting that must have been! Did you really,
Mr. Dyke? What presence of mind.”

When Mrs. Verinder with Margaret broke up the chat and said it was
time to go, Emmeline gave a little start and looked at her as if
for the moment she did not recognize her; then, as if remembering,
she made the traveller known to her.

In the carriage, going up Exhibition Road, Mr. Verinder praised
him. He said that he was a breezy, open hearted, engaging creature,
and he would like to ask him to dinner. Get a few friends to meet
him, what?

Mrs. Verinder said, “He has asked Margaret and Emmeline to tea
to-morrow at Hurlingham. They could give him a message.”

“Oh,” said Mr. Verinder, “has he asked you two girls out for a
little treat? Well, that’s very kind and friendly of him.”

At this date the dinner-party was still an unshaken British
institution, a stately serious affair in any circumstances, like
matrimony, not to be entered into lightly, and when conducted on
the grand scale habitual to Prince’s Gate, all preliminaries needed
thoughtful care. For the minute of time before the horses pulled
up, Mr. and Mrs. Verinder were both turning things over in their
minds.

To all of them, as they entered the hall, there came that vague
and usually unanalysed sensation which most people experience on
returning home from a party; it is a faint shock of surprise caused
by the silence and tranquillity after the noise and commotion; as
if, because you have been hearing music, chattering, drinking wine,
getting warm in a crowd, you expect your house to show that it has
also passed through slight agitation and excitement. For a moment
you are consciously or unconsciously displeased that it should have
been quite unconcerned in anything that concerned you so much; then
the solidness of the fact seems to steady your nerves and bring you
comfort. Home again!

In the wisely restricted lamp-light turned on for them by the
butler, one saw pallid marble nymphs and gods with black caves of
shadow behind them, the squat richly carved legs of heavy tables
whose further ends were lost in gloom, the gilt balustrade of the
staircase glittering, and the stairs themselves rising sharply and
as sharply turning till they grew dim and faded out on a level with
the first floor. Above that all was dark, and one had an impression
of the house stretching upward in the darkness to a fantastic
height. The butler moving ahead gave them of a sudden a doorway of
yellow flames, so dazzling did it seem as he switched and switched,
flooding a large inner room with vivid light. They went in after
him.

This room had never been properly named; it was spoken of
indifferently as the boudoir, the morning-room, and mother’s
room--although Mrs. Verinder herself did not put forward any claim
to proprietorial rights. Probably her title to it merely rested
upon the circumstance that the portrait of her by Millais had been
hung above its marble chimney-piece. Like every other room in the
house, it displayed evidences of moderate wealth, painstaking care,
and a docile adhesion to the prevailing standards of good taste.
The walls were cream-coloured, with panels of red satin--two
large patches of the satin being hidden by the Millais picture and
another picture of similar size but strangely different subject by
Leighton. There were more of those massive heavily carved tables,
some big chairs with golden legs and tapestry backs, and here
and there on the parquetry floor had been placed firmly secured
mounds of velvet and brocade cushions, forming the easy backless
seats then known as “poufs.” These poufs had been chosen by Mrs.
Verinder, and, sinking voluminously upon one of them, she gave a
sign of fatigue, and stared at Millais’ notion of her as she was
once. A smaller pouf would have fitted her in that first year of
her married life.

Margaret, fairer, shorter, plumper, altogether more bustling than
her sister, went to one of the tables, where a silver tray with
cut-glass bottles and tumblers waited for them, and poured out
soda-water. Mr. Verinder at another table busied himself with the
bed-rock detail of his dinner-party, consulting a gold-framed
calendar and jotting down names on an ivory tablet. “The Cluttons,”
he murmured, “and old Sir Timothy--and the Everard-Browns.”

“Don’t forget some young men for Emmeline,” said Mrs. Pratt gaily.

“I never do,” said Mr. Verinder. And that was true. Before his time
in that respect, he liked to see a few fresh young faces even at
his most ceremonious feasts; moreover, as the father of daughters,
he knew that one must not think only of oneself. It was at a big
dinner that Lionel Pratt first betrayed his inclination towards
Margaret. “I am thinking now more of the day than the company,” he
continued; and he ran his pencil down the calendar. “Seventeen
days will bring us to the twelfth, and that’s a Thursday. At this
time of year you can’t expect people to be free unless you give
them adequate notice.”

“Emmeline,” said Mrs. Verinder, yawning, “would you like young
What’s-his-name--that friend of Mrs. Pryce-Jones--Gerald
Something--to be asked?”

Emmeline did not answer. She was standing at the corner of the
chimney-piece, one arm stretched along the marble, her cloak thrown
open. Her eyes seemed queerly large and black, her cheeks white,
her breathing wearily rapid; so that she had the aspect worn by her
when, in the maternal phrase, she had been “overdoing it”--playing
too many sets at lawn tennis, riding too long in the Row, going to
too many theatres in the same week.

“There’s no occasion for you to stay up,” said Mrs. Verinder,
observing this look on her daughter’s face. “You go to bed, dear”;
and she added the farewell words that she had first begun to utter
when Emmeline was a child of fourteen. “Don’t read in bed.”

“No, I don’t want to read to-night,” said Emmeline, going out of
the room.

No, she did not want to read: she wanted to think.



CHAPTER III


On the morning after the day on which the two girls watched the
polo and drank tea with Mr. Dyke, Margaret went back to her kind
husband and two sweet little children at Hindhead, where they
lived in a red-brick catastrophe of the largest size that Pratt
had brought about among the beeches and pines only a few years
previously. On the afternoon of that day Mr. Dyke called in
Prince’s Gate for the purpose of offering thanks by word of mouth
for the invitation which he had already accepted with pen and ink.
Mrs. Verinder said that he was amiable but untidy, and a sticker.
She thought he would never go.

At dinner a night later--when only Eustace had been claimed by
society and the other three remained at home--Mr. Verinder talked
again of Anthony Dyke.

It appeared, said Mr. Verinder, that Dyke began his career as a
hunter of big game in Africa, where, together with his companion,
the eccentric Duke of Ravenna, he had been badly mauled by lions.

“The other night, while we were talking, I noticed some disfiguring
marks on both cheekbones, and I should not be surprised if they
were the signs of the clawing to which I allude. Whatever they
were, he will carry them to his grave.” And Mr. Verinder went on to
say that Dyke’s next scene of operations was Australia, where he
had penetrated the unknown desert country in all directions.

Then he told them some more. He did not, of course, know that one
of his hearers could have told it to him, had she been willing to
display her knowledge.

The fact was that Mr. Verinder, desirous of being well posted
by the twelfth of next month, when the man would be here as his
guest for dinner, had searched tables and shelves at the Reform
Club in order to put things together. That most useful of all
volumes, Who’s Who, did not as yet exist, but a sort of popular
dictionary of biography gave Mr. Verinder all that he wanted,
and very much in the modern style. In this compendium he gleaned
such essential details as: “Emerged at Shark Bay on the northern
coast, sole survivor of the party; Thanked by the Government of
Queensland, 1885; Thanked by Governments of South Australia and New
South Wales, gold medal of Royal Geographical Society, 1886; First
Antarctic cruise, resulting in discovery of the island since named
Anthony Dyke Land, and charting of coast-line for five hundred
miles, 1888; Establishing Furthest South record”--and so on.

Also Mr. Verinder had been to Mudie’s Library and borrowed that
book, _A Walk in the Andes_. He read it after dinner.

They sat upstairs in what they called the music-room--the room that
comprised the full width of the house, the largest and best room,
with the pictures by Long, Poynter, and Alma Tadema. The Leaders
were in the room behind; you reached it through those folding
doors, now of course closed. Naturally all the light was not turned
on, but there was full and sufficient radiance throughout the
little camp that the diminished family formed on the stretching
desert of parquetry.

Mrs. Verinder, wearing mauve brocade, occupied a sofa and dozed
over the newspaper; Mr. Verinder had taken the very easiest chair
and settled himself in it with many changes of position, as if
determined to perform the impossible task of making it still
easier; Emmeline sat upon a lowish stool, her pretty hair darkly
lustrous in the soft orange glow of the lamps as she bent her head
over a piece of embroidery and made minute stitches slowly and very
neatly. From time to time she raised her eyes to glance at the book
in her father’s hands, noticing how old and shabby it looked with
the edge of the cloth binding broken and the librarian’s ugly label
loose at one corner. She had a lovely clean new copy upstairs in
her room--with the portrait-cover intact, and her own name and the
author’s compliments written in a slap-dash hand on the title page.

“They told me at the club,” said Mr. Verinder, half closing his
book, “that there’s a strong touch of Baron Munchausen about this.”

“Did you speak?” said Mrs. Verinder, raising herself and stooping
to pick up the newspaper.

Mr. Verinder repeated his words.

“Munchausen,” murmured Mrs. Verinder drowsily.

He went on reading and Emmeline watched him while he read.

As she knew or had learned involuntarily, it was not great
literature, a modest affair compared with the works of Thackeray,
Carlyle, or Ruskin--but why bother about style when you have such
a tale to tell? The matter not the manner grips. Was it gripping
father? He had assumed a dogged, almost aggressive air, he frowned;
but this did not really indicate that he was quarrelling with the
book, it only meant that as he was very little used to book-reading
as a pastime, he felt that a superior concentration of the
intellect was necessary.

Watching him, she had again that odd sense of strangeness; as
though he had not been really her father, but somebody that she
scarcely knew and did not in the least care for. How strange!
Certainly she had never seen him or understood him as now,
suddenly, unexpectedly.

She observed his bushy yet straggling grey eyebrows, his inch
of close-cropt whisker, his bald head with long strands of hair
idiotically plastered across it from the fat neck, his leathery
complexion, the creases and furrows of his chin and cheeks. He
was well dressed, in a suitable manner--but suitable to what? The
well-starched shirt, the black satin tie, the glossy dinner jacket
gave him no true dignity, concealed not one of his defects. He
was a ruin, a man run to seed; large without being strong, too
stout about the middle, too slack about the knees, no steel and
whipcord anywhere about this sprawling unimpressive bulk. No force
of any sort behind that stupid frown! But he was kindly by nature,
well-intentioned, thoroughly good according to his lights; only
stupid--stupid, stupid as the Albert Hall is round, as Exhibition
Road is wide, as Queen’s Gate straight and Kensington Gore flat.

Then she thought how cruel it was that she should thus judge him
instead of pitying him--she, with this immense gladness in her
heart.

She glanced at her mother, from whose relaxed grasp the newspaper
was again slipping, and a yearning compassion for both parents came
in response to the call. Poor dears.

The book had gripped father; he read on resolutely, but as yet of
course he was only at the beginning, still in Patagonia. Stitching
very slowly she thought about it. It was so simple, yet so
wonderful, so very wonderful.

He had been “messing about” among the gold-diggings of Cape Horn.
“The Gold-diggings of Cape Horn”--inaudibly she re-articulated the
words to herself, just to feel them again on her vocal cords. Like
all other words that concerned him, they had magic in them. For
instance, Tierra del Fuego--the Land of Fire--Tierra del Fuego.
And beyond all else, the Andes. The Andes--it seemed to her that
the very first time she heard that word when she was a child, she
should have thrilled through and through. The word should have
taken possession of her by reason of its mystery and might.

Well then, he was moving northward among those islands, trying his
luck at the gold-digging, and doing no good. “I don’t think I am
a lucky man, Miss Verinder. No, I have never been very lucky. How
I go on warning you against myself, don’t I? But, just as I have
been frank to you about important matters, I won’t deceive you
about small ones. Never mind. Hang it, the luck turns. I shall get
my luck one day.” Well then--while her father read the book she
talked to herself about it: Since he was at a loose end, no big
thing on hand, the idea had come to him to land on the mainland,
and go along the gigantic spine of the Andes in its entire length
from south to north, say four thousand miles. And he had achieved
his purpose, alone and on foot--seeing marvellous things, doing
marvellous things all the way.

She thought of the lure that danger exercises over the bravest
hearts. It is the same to-day as it was hundreds of years ago. It
was that--the lure--which drew the brave hearts over the bars of
Devon rivers in Elizabeth’s time; out, out to the Spanish main.
Not the glitter of the gold, but the danger behind the flash and
glow--the danger. She quite understood.

The newspaper had fallen with a gentle rustle upon the parquetry.
Mrs. Verinder leaned further back, opened her mouth, and, after
it had been open for a little while, made the faint sound of a
snore. The snoring of Mrs. Verinder was like a terrible family
secret, never to be spoken of or even hinted at in any manner to
anybody--least of all, to Mrs. Verinder herself. This evening,
however, it did not distressfully afflict either her husband or her
daughter.

Emmeline ceased to stitch, folded her hands on her lap with a
gesture that had become habitual to her even at this distant
date, and her eyes grew soft and dreamy. Large as the room was,
it was too small for her; with a few dreamlike thoughts she broke
the westward wall of it, swept it clean away--the five windows,
the rich curtains, the gilded, moulded panels, and all the rest
of it--and passed out through the gap, merely leaving behind the
graceful external shape of herself to keep her parents company and
answer questions, if necessary, during her absence. She went a long
way; westward, half across the world. Then she came back again, and
was once more in the neighbourhood, although not yet in the house
itself. She was walking under the trees, not far from sunlit water,
listening to a voice.

The entrance of butler and footmen with the silver tray and the cut
glass brought her right home, and she resumed her stitching.

Quite late the book wrung a chuckle and an expostulation from Mr.
Verinder. “Oh, I say. Really--upon my word;” and he stood up. “If
Dyke actually means what I think! And I don’t see what else he can
mean. Listen to this. I want to read it to you.”

Mrs. Verinder, in the absurd sprightly tone of a person whom
sleep has intoxicated, begged him to give them the passage; and
Mr. Verinder, standing close to a tall standard lamp, with all
available light on the page, read it, after first explaining the
context.

Dyke, he said, had accepted a night’s hospitality from three
savages, who at first appeared friendly, but soon aroused his
suspicion. Acting a naïve admiration of the weapon, they had
withdrawn his rifle before he lay down to sleep; and now the three
of them sat at the fire with their heads close together, planning
mischief, as he surmised. At their feet was a great stone axe, and
not far from him a horse-hair lasso. “Dyke says that while still
pretending to sleep, he moved inch by inch towards the lasso, till
he got it and opened the noose. Ah, here we are. Now listen.” And
Mr. Verinder read slowly, amazedly, fearfully. “‘By good fortune
I noosed them all three, so that their greased and painted faces
crashed together with a nasty bang. Borrowing the stone axe, I used
it freely. Then I lay down and slept comfortably, feeling confident
that my late hosts would never plot against a visitor again.’ He
means--doesn’t he?--that he killed them. He says his _late_ hosts.
What! He can’t mean anything else?”

“No,” said Mrs. Verinder, successfully shaking off the dregs of
torpor; “that’s what he means, of course.”

Mr. Verinder chuckled feebly. “But, upon my word If you think of
it, wasn’t it--”

“It was in self-defence,” said Mrs. Verinder tolerantly.

“Yes, I suppose it was. But doesn’t it show--”

Of a truth he scarcely knew what it showed. Unless the obvious
fact that there are wide expanses of land and water on this
big planet where life does not run as smoothly as it does in
Prince’s Gate; that when once you go outside the boundaries
of civilization, when once you begin to disregard the rules
that bind society together--He stood there in the strong
lamp-light, with the reluctant confused facial expression of a
comfort-loving, peaceable, sheltered person who is confronted
with ferocity--legitimate ferocity, perhaps; as when, standing in
an hotel balcony during a riot, one sees limbs broken by a baton
charge of mounted police. However much one dislikes it, one cannot
hinder or interfere. One can do nothing--except to make light of
the incident afterwards, and, so to speak, laugh it off.

Mr. Verinder laughed and closed the book. “That’s enough for
to-night,” he said, putting the book down, and feeling the back of
his neck.

After this the name of Anthony Dyke faded out of the family
conversation, and for a few days at least was mentioned no more.
Then Miss Marchant came and made a communication to Mrs. Verinder,
saying that she had been sent to do it by Mrs. Pryce-Jones.

Mrs. Jones lived in the large stone house at the western end of
Kensington Gore, and Miss Marchant lived with her as a kind of lady
companion, assisting her with household management.

Mrs. Jones thought that Mrs. Verinder ought to be told that Miss
Marchant, happening to be in Kensington Gardens not long before
dinner time, had seen Miss Verinder walking alone with a man there.
They were quite alone, without the shadow of a chaperon. Just
together--like that. They never saw Miss Marchant, who had observed
them until obliged herself to leave the gardens. As Mrs. Verinder
knew, they dined rather early at the stone house. As Mrs. Verinder
knew also, Mrs. Jones was very fond of Miss Emmeline, and she felt
it only right to send Miss Marchant; bearing in mind that the very
nicest girls do need a little looking after.

Mrs. Verinder did not at all relish this turn of phrase, and she
allowed Miss Marchant to perceive her distaste for it; but Miss
Marchant, continuing the narrative after an apology, threw Mrs.
Verinder into a state of flabby perturbation which she could ill
conceal, by saying that the impression made by Miss Emmeline’s
male companion had been so very unfavourable. He had seemed
altogether a most undesirable person--objectionable even. One did
read such dreadful things in the newspapers nowadays--about slight
indiscretions of young ladies leading to painful entanglements.
Indeed, as she confessed, she had been haunted by the idea of
blackmailers--the sort of ruffians who possess themselves of a
perhaps quite innocent secret, then distort it and make you pay
them to hide it. In these circumstances Mrs. Pryce-Jones and Miss
Marchant had both felt that it would be really wicked not to speak
about it to Mrs. Verinder.

“Do you imply,” asked Mrs. Verinder breathlessly, “that it was a
common ragged sort of person?”

Oh, no. The person was adequately, if queerly dressed; a great big
tall man, wearing a grey suit and a slouch hat. It was rather his
commanding air, the way he brandished his arms, and so on, that had
displeased and frightened Miss Marchant.

Then--what was exceedingly rare with her--Mrs. Verinder had an
inspiration, or an intuition.

“A bearded man?”

“Yes.”

“A man with a red beard, and rather high cheekbones--a great big
man?”

“Yes, yes.”

It was that Dyke--the explorer. Although no worse, Mrs. Verinder
was, of course, very much upset by it; but she displayed a
satisfaction that she was very far from feeling.

“Oh, really!” she said, tittering effectively. “You may be quite
at ease, Miss Marchant. It is quite all right, thank you. He is a
valued friend of the family. No more a friend of Emmeline’s than
the rest of us. But I don’t think I shall tell you his name,” she
added, acting playful reproachfulness. “I don’t think you deserve
it--No, I am not in the least offended. I’ll at least tell you
this--” and for a moment hesitating whether to cloak herself
with cold dignity or put on a mask of cordialness, she chose
the smiles--“he is dining with us on the twelfth, and although
unfortunately, our table is made up, so that I cannot ask you to
meet him at dinner, I shall be very glad indeed if you and Mrs.
Jones will look in afterwards. That is, if you have nothing better
to do.”

Miss Marchant withdrew, puzzled and crestfallen.

Immediately Mrs. Verinder despatched a message upstairs requesting
Miss Emmeline to come down to the morning-room. She had determined
to talk to her daughter without delay, but quite lightly, with a
simulation of unconcern. It is always wisest with young people not
to show them that you have been fluttered by any act of theirs.

Afternoon tea was done, and trays of cut flowers, the contents of
a hamper sent by Margaret from Hindhead, had been brought into the
room for Mrs. Verinder to arrange in glass vases and dishes. It
was a little task that she liked to do herself--perhaps because
she did it with so extraordinary a clumsiness and ineptitude. She
seized upon these flowers now--lovely long-stalked roses, pink and
red--feeling that they would aid her and keep her in countenance;
and as she moved about, dabbing the delicious blooms into obviously
improper receptacles, breaking a stalk here or there, and slopping
a little water on the choice furniture, she looked like a large
over-blown actress playing a part in a highly artificial comedy.

“Ah, Emmeline, is that you?” she cried, with a tone so jarringly
spurious that Emmeline stopped short on the threshold and
understood at once that the trouble was beginning.

“Shut the door, dear. What was I going to say?” And Mrs. Verinder
caused a slop-over and a shower of petals with the same brisk
movement of her dimpled hand. “Oh, yes. I could not tell you why,
but our friend Mr. Anthony Dyke came into my mind just now; and
thinking about him, I thought I’d give you a little hint.”

“Yes, mother?”

“To begin with, we scarcely know him.”

“We have not known him very long,” said Emmeline, gently.

“I say, we don’t really know him at all”; and Mrs. Verinder gave
a harshly nervous laugh as she mutilated some maidenhair fern.
“I mean, nothing _about_ him--who he is, or what he is, himself,
outside his notoriety. Then the point is this. Because--I don’t say
so, but I thought it might be--because he may have interested you
as rather striking, a _bizarre_ figure, and so forth--” Watching
Emmeline’s face, she rapidly abandoned a difficult rôle and became
more like herself. “I don’t want you to indulge in any silliness
about him.”

“What do you mean by silliness?” said Emmeline quietly.

“Well, I don’t want you to fall in love with him.”

“I’m afraid I’ve done that already,” said Emmeline, still more
quietly.

Her mother flung down a bunch of wet La Frances on the satin seat
of the nearest chair, and became entirely natural.

“Oh, what nonsense--what utter nonsense! Emmeline, how can you talk
such rubbish? Really--upon my word. A total stranger--and a man old
enough to be your father.”

“Oh, no. He is considerably under forty.”

“Then he doesn’t _look_ it. And such an untidy creature.” Ruffled,
bothered, angry, Mrs. Verinder was speaking without plan, uttering
scattered thoughts as they presented themselves, and she continued
volubly to do so. “I never saw such an untidy man. That night at
Mrs. Clutton’s. His crumpled shirt--and he kept running his hands
through his hair till it was all anywhere.” Emmeline was gently
shaking her head, as though to imply that she did not mind, that
she rather liked the untidy appearance. “You of all people,
too--you who’ve always had such a sense of fitness and niceness.
How can you for a moment harbour such silliness? Besides, the
_time_! There’s been no _time_ for it. What night was it, that
night at Mrs. Clutton’s? Surely not a week ago!” And Mrs. Verinder
steadied herself, speaking slower and with weight. “Emmeline, tell
me the truth. How many times have you actually seen him?”

“Let me think,” said Emmeline, with dreamy introspective eyes,
deeply interested by the question and vibrating with anxious care
as she answered it. How many times, how few times? Of course, it
was so immeasurably more wonderful to her than it could be to her
mother. “At Mrs. Clutton’s,” she said gravely. “At Hurlingham next
day. Next morning at Waterloo.”

“At Waterloo?” ejaculated Mrs. Verinder loudly. “What’s that?
Waterloo!”

“When Margaret was going home. He came to see her off.”

“See her off! How did he know her train?”

“She told him--or I did. I don’t remember.”

“More fools, the pair of you.”

Emmeline made a deprecating gesture, as of one who pleads not to be
interrupted in a difficult mental effort, and for a moment or so
looked about her vaguely.

“Then of course he came here that same afternoon,” she said, with a
brightening face. “And the next afternoon he came again.”

“Not two afternoons!” cried Mrs. Verinder. “Not again, behind my
back, without my seeing him. Oh, but, Emmeline, that is shameful;
that is underhand.”

“He is not underhand. How could you see him? You were out.”

“Then he oughtn’t to have come in. Besides, why didn’t he leave his
cards? There were no cards on the table. I looked.”

“He left cards the day before.”

“He should have left them again,” said Mrs. Verinder, not really
meaning it, only feeling muddled and angry.

Emmeline made another gesture.

“That brings us to Thursday. And the three times in Kensington
Gardens. I have met him there, mother, by appointment. That’s seven
times, isn’t it? No, eight--eight!” Her voice faded away as she
said the number, as though she was lost in the wonder of it. Could
it be possible? Only eight times--all told!

“Well. _Well_,” said Mrs. Verinder, pulling herself together. In
the midst of her irritation she could not avoid a feeling of pride
because of the silly child’s absolute truthfulness and candour. “Of
course you understand that there must be no more of such meetings.”

Emmeline let that remark go, as if it had been a ball at tennis
that was not worth moving to--so obviously out of court.

“And your father must be told about it.”

“Yes, I suppose he had better know,” said Emmeline dreamily.

Left alone, Mrs. Verinder polished off the flowers in a very
rough and ready fashion, thinking the while. If Emmeline insisted
on making an imprudent marriage, it was doubtful if one could
prevent her. No, why not be honest about it? One _couldn’t_
prevent her. The only way you can keep grown-up girls in check is
by holding their purse-strings--and Emmeline had her own money.
And she thought that, nice as it is to belong to the third or
even fourth generation of families enriched by the highest form
of trade, it is perhaps a pity that grandfathers should leave
money to female grandchildren--absolutely, on their attaining the
age of twenty-one. Wiser and better to leave it in the control of
parents--or make the age thirty--or forty. Margaret had gone off so
easily and pleasantly with Lionel Pratt. A nice well-dressed rich
young fellow, able to build quite a palace for his wife, and send
flowers to his mother-in-law.

Leaving out maternal feeling altogether, she could not bear this
idea of a quite attractive if rather reserved girl marrying an
uncouth stranger--a man who had come from the ends of the earth
and would probably want to go back there. Of course if it must be,
it must be. “But, oh,” she said to herself with a sigh, “it is all
too weird; for _I_ don’t understand what she has seen in him to
captivate her.”

She determined that she would talk to her husband about it directly
after dinner, not before dinner. It was now half-past six o’clock;
and, while giving her very last dabs to the flowers, she fancied
that she heard the front door open and shut. Going out to the hall
presently and seeing one of the footmen, she inquired if it had
been Mr. Verinder coming in.

“No, ma’am, it was Miss Verinder going out.”

“Oh, yes, quite so.”

Mrs. Verinder went slowly up the stairs, feeling seriously
perturbed. In spite of all that had been said just now, had
Emmeline gone out to meet that man? But Mrs. Verinder held to her
determination of postponing her chat with Mr. Verinder till after
dinner. If you cannot avoid worry, it is better to take it on a
full stomach.

Emmeline gave one glance back at the house, noticed that it too had
changed, and hurried on.

Open carriages with a footman as well as a coachman on each
box seat were streaming up the road. Quite young ladies in the
carriages wore bonnets with strings tied under their chins,
daintily small bonnets of delicate colours, primrose, heliotrope,
and peach; those that wore hats had them perched in the queerest
manner, on the back of the head, sideways, at angles; all of them
held up flounced or laced parasols of rich dark tints, and their
great sleeves ballooned so widely as almost to conceal gentlemen
who were accompanying them--elderly gentlemen, these, like father,
in top hats and open frock coats; or comparatively youthful
gentlemen, like our brother Eustace, in top hats and buttoned
frock coats. A horn sounded joyously, and round the corner from
Prince’s Gardens there came a four-in-hand--four beautiful grey
horses prancing, the whole coach shining in the sunlight, a bevy
of ladies, a flower-bed of female elegance, on top; and the two
grooms, one standing up to blow the horn and the other sitting
down with folded arms. There was another, a plain-clothes groom,
concealed within the shuttered doors, but ready to pop out should
the gentleman driving meet any difficulties. “So-ho, there. Steady.”

The top hat of the gentleman driving shone prodigiously; he wore a
button-hole of gardenias and had a light holland cloth round his
middle dividing the frock coat from the shepherd’s plaid trousers;
although his face was red and anxious, he looked very grand. The
whole prosperous essentially respectable neighbourhood was rolling
through the slanted sunbeams to enjoy its drive of ceremony in Hyde
Park.

At Alexandra Gate a mounted policeman held up his white hand
and stopped the traffic of the main road, in order to allow
all these equipages to roll flashing past unimpeded. The stout
plebeian horses of two omnibuses had to be pulled up short with
a jerk, the ponies in several tradesmen’s carts skidded a little
on the macadam; a small squad of lads riding on those new safety
bicycles--not the ugly high ones--jumped from the pedals and held
their machines sloping to the pavement. Within the rails of the
semi-private sanctuary of Hyde Park, Mayfair and Belgravia on
wheels at once mingled with and absorbed Kensington on wheels. It
was a gay and enchantingly polite spectacle.

But Emmeline turned her back on it and walked swiftly into the
cool shadow cast by Albert Hall Mansions--the only edifice in the
locality of which Mr. Verinder did not approve. Then, before she
reached the Albert Hall, her heart leaped. A tall, excitable man
was coming towards her, waving a slouch hat. They should have met
on the Broad Walk; she had told him to wait there; but he was not
able to wait.

How had he captivated her? She did not know. Was it only because
he was the incarnate antithesis of Kensington; because he was
individual, unlike the things on each side of him, not arranged
on any pattern, not dull, monotonous, or flat; a thing alive in a
place where all else was sleeping or dead? Neither then nor at any
future time did she attempt mentally to differentiate between the
impression he had made upon her as himself all complete, with the
dark hair, the penetrating but impenetrable eyes, the record, the
fame, and the impression she might have received if any of these
attributes had been taken away from him. Say, if he had been
an unknown Mr. Tomkins instead of a known Mr. Dyke. Absurd. The
man and the name were one. So very much so indeed that yesterday
morning when, at the museum, she had asked for a new map of the
Antarctic, and was poring over it in order to feast herself with a
sight of those magic words Anthony Dyke Land, it was not only that
the little black letters of which the names was composed shone like
rubies and burned like fire, she felt distinctly the man’s hand
on her shoulder and heard his voice at her ear, although at this
moment he was miles away. He was Anthony Dyke. He was her lord, her
prince, her lover.

Yet hitherto she had not been a romantic girl. She had felt nothing
irksome in her surroundings, had been content with these broad
streets and platitudinous façades; her pulses had not stirred at
contact with masculinity; life with the family had seemed pleasant,
and the prospect of ultimate union with some good-natured nonentity
like Pratt, a well-managed nursery, some humdrum babies, had not
appeared repellent. She was not irregular either in thought or
conduct. Indeed, she had inherited a fair portion of her father’s
love of order; showing this characteristic in many ways, keeping
her room very neat and tidy, liking, even when she was quite
small, to have boxes and convenient places in which to keep her
belongings, not leaving books on sofas or dropping her handkerchief
on the stairs. Beyond the sensation of possessing latent powers and
capabilities upon which there had been no call, there had not come
to her herself the slightest indication of the likelihood of what
was happening now. It was unexpected, miraculous. As though that
Virginia creeper which was so neatly bound upon its wires from the
wide area to the top of the ground floor windows of their house
had been metamorphosed into an overwhelming growth, with tendrils
strong enough to bind a man’s limbs, huge pulp-laden leaves, and
blazing red tropical passion flowers.

They entered the Gardens by the small gate, and he plunged across
the grass with her just at a point where a notice board was
imploring people to keep on the paths. They walked away together
under the trees, towards the water. It lay all aglow in the mellow
sunlight.

When she came home a little more than an hour later she glanced at
the outside of the house again. Home. It was not so much that it
had changed, it had lost significance.

       *       *       *       *       *

After dinner she went upstairs to the music-room, while her father
was drawn by Mrs. Verinder into the room that they sometimes called
her own. In there Mrs. Verinder told him, with a mere expression of
regret and no preamble, that Emmeline had fallen in love with Dyke,
the explorer.

“But, good heavens,” cried Mr. Verinder, “he’s a married man.”

Mrs. Verinder sat down. As a very broad generalisation, it might
be said that there are two classes of people: those who spring to
their feet when suddenly confronted with a grave crisis and those
who sit down. Mrs. Verinder was of the sitting-down sort.

“Married man!” she echoed, after seating herself. “How do you
know?”

“Mrs. Clutton told me so. I asked if his wife was there, and she
said no, the wife is never seen.”

“Then you ought to have told me.”

“I did.”

“Never.”

“I certainly intended to--although I never thought it could be of
the slightest consequence to us. But I meant to warn you for the
twelfth--to say nothing to him in conversation about married life
or divorce. Oh, but this is ridiculous.” Mr. Verinder walked about
the room, frowning. “Emmeline! No, no. Whatever fancy--It must be
stopped at once. Emmeline must be told the facts of the case, and
she must dismiss all thought about him. It can be nothing, so far.”

“I fear,” said Mrs. Verinder, “that she has been going about with
him.”

“What makes you think that?”

Mrs. Verinder explained.

“It is very wrong of him,” said Mr. Verinder indignantly. “It is
very wrong of him in the circumstances.” He felt alarm now as
well as indignation, and he came to the front of Mrs. Verinder
and spoke with frowning emphasis. “That sort of man might be very
dangerous--unscrupulous--reckless of consequences. I don’t like
this at all.”

Then he walked about the room again, reflecting upon the manner in
which he should break the unpalatable news to Emmeline. He felt
that it was a delicate business and one demanding tact; for no
sensitive self-respecting young lady can fail to suffer from the
sting of wounded pride when she learns that a man with no right to
pay specially marked attentions to anybody has been paying them to
her. On the other hand, if the attentions have not been special or
marked, then in responding by any relaxment of reserve she has made
a fool of herself--and she won’t like that either. However, he was
soon ready for his task, and both of them went upstairs to Emmeline
in the music-room.

There, in the music-room, occurred what Mrs. Verinder called “a
scene.” It was the first real scene that had ever broken the
tranquil atmosphere of the house since the family had occupied
it; but as many other scenes were soon to follow, one may perhaps
indicate the developments of this one by synopsis.

Miss Verinder, coming from the piano where she had been playing,
was informed by her father of the fact--Mr. Dyke not in a position
to marry, for the simple reason that Mr. Dyke is already married.
In these circumstances an obvious necessity to open her eyes; and
an equally obvious necessity for her and the rest of the family to
drop Mr. Dyke like a hot potato.

All this he had conveyed with delicacy enough; but, observing that
Miss Verinder, after her eyes had been opened, showed density,
slowness of intelligence, or lack of sufficient recoil, he felt
the initial touch of that cumulative irritation with which fate
was about to torture him, and he amplified the argument in a
heavier and less tactful style. Very, very wrong of Dyke to play
the fool with her, and hold this knowledge up his sleeve. Can
have so behaved for none other than a caddish motive. Very, very
humiliating for her, to find out how worthless he is; but nothing
to do except take the thing in proper ladylike style, wash him out,
and look pleasant about it--that is, pleasant before company.

Then came the shock.

Miss Verinder, to the horror and amazement of her parents, said she
had known it from the beginning. Nothing underhand or caddish about
the man; best man in the world; at any rate, the only man in the
world for her. As to being talked about, peril to reputation, and
so on--it did not, as she implied, matter twopence-half-penny to
Miss Verinder. To such questions as, Where had her pride gone? she
returned evasive or unsatisfactory replies.

Mr. Verinder, talking now very freely, felt after a little while
that he was making too much noise and no real progress. He broke
off the interview, saying he would take Mrs. Verinder downstairs
with him and go on talking to her alone in the boudoir. Emmeline
offered to withdraw from the music-room, leaving them alone there;
but Mr. Verinder said he needed pens, ink, and paper, and he would
find them on the ground floor. He would return soon to make some
final pronouncement to Emmeline; she was therefore to remain where
she was.

Downstairs, he used such words as stupid hero-worship, temporary
infatuation, passing fancy induced by the plausible cajolements
of a man so much older than herself. Of Dyke he said he could
not speak with adequate censure--and he added at once that most
certainly Dyke’s invitation to dinner on the twelfth must be
cancelled. But of course there should be no cancellation of
the dinner itself. He would write to Dyke to-morrow; he knew
exactly what to say to Dyke. That letter, however, could wait
till to-morrow. The pressing thing was to decide what to do with
Emmeline.

“If,” said Mr. Verinder, “she will give me her solemn promise never
to see him again, then--”

“She won’t,” said Mrs. Verinder. “I could detect that, in the
expression of her face just now.”

Then soon an idea occurred to one or other of them and was
immediately adopted by both. They would send Emmeline on a visit
to Hindhead, and thus keep her out of the way and give her time to
forget this silliness. She would be very happy down there, she was
devoted to Margaret’s two children, she liked all the sylvan glades
that had been left standing after Pratt built his mansion.

It was not too late to despatch a telegram, although it might not
be delivered to-night, and they could not expect an answer till the
morning. They sent this off, looked in the railway guide to find
an early train to Hindhead, gave the necessary instructions about
the carriage which would convey Miss Verinder to the station. Then
Mr. Verinder stood thinking and frowning, till he asked a question
about the maid who would accompany his daughter.

“That girl who looks after her--Louisa Hodson! Can Louisa be
trusted?”

“Oh, I hope so,” said Mrs. Verinder, already feeling that nobody
was to be trusted, that everybody had bothering secrets which one
would find out sooner or later. “Oh, yes, I think Louisa is quite
trustworthy. She _has_ been--so far.”

Then they went upstairs once more.

“It is arranged,” he said, “that you shall go to Margaret for a few
weeks.”

Miss Verinder said that she would not go. Her face was white, and
she spoke in a quiet but rather breathless manner.

“Oh, yes, it is all settled,” said Mr. Verinder curbing himself.
Then, as he saw her shake her head negatively, he burst out. “You
will do what you are told.”

“Oh, no, I assure you, father, I can’t be treated like this, as if
I was a child.”

“It will do you good,” said Mrs. Verinder feebly. “You look pale
and fagged. The change of air--”

“If I wanted change of air I’d sooner go to the seaside by myself.
Yes, I could do that.”

“No, you couldn’t,” shouted Mr. Verinder; and he told her that if
she compelled him, he would give orders that would result in total
restriction of her movements. Then the servants would all know that
there was something wrong in the house; they would talk, and the
echo of their talk would be heard outside the house. Nevertheless,
facing these risks, he would give his orders. “Understand, I am
serious.”

“So am I,” said Miss Verinder, very quietly.

“The carriage will be at the door at ten minutes to ten, to take
you to Waterloo,” he said, shouting. “You’ll have your things
packed, and you’ll start--No, don’t leave the room.” She was going
towards the door; but she stopped, and sat down by the piano. “Do
you hear? You’ll have everything packed to-night, before you go to
bed.”

“Except her dressing-case,” said Mrs. Verinder. “That must be kept
open till the morning--to put in her small odds and ends--brush and
comb--what she wants for her personal comfort.”

Nothing further of a contentious character was said. And presently
Mr. Verinder tried to do a little acting in his turn; he essayed a
representation of relief of mind, restored confidence, general good
humour. He said he had interrupted Emmeline earlier in the evening
when she was playing the piano. Would she play something to him now?

She obeyed, playing a selection from the new musical piece at the
Savoy Theatre.

Mr. Verinder acted the soothing effect produced by tuneful melody,
satisfaction that peace now reigned, and so forth; but, leaning
back in the easy chair, he felt unexpectedly tired and shaky.

“Thank you, dear. That is very pretty.”

“And didn’t she play it prettily?” said Mrs. Verinder.

“Yes. Thank you, dear,” said Mr. Verinder again, indicating by
his tone that in view of the task which lay before her upstairs
he would not ask for an encore. That packing! He tried to express
trunks and boxes by his firm but kindly manner; he did not wish to
repeat the words themselves.

Emmeline, seeming to accept the hint, rose from the piano and bade
them good-night.

“Out of the way for a month at least. That gives one time,” said
Mr. Verinder, when the door had closed; and he gave his wife an
oral sketch of the letter she was to write to Margaret explaining
the state of affairs, putting Margaret on her guard, and telling
her what precautions should be taken. He thought it ought, if
possible, to be in the post-box before one A.M.

Poor Mrs. Verinder sat up late to write it.

Early next morning they received Margaret’s reply telegram--just
the one word “Delighted.” Miss Emmeline had breakfast in her room,
and this arrangement appeared to Mr. Verinder both natural and
proper. At ten minutes to ten the single brougham with the luggage
tray on top stood waiting at the door, and the footman who was
to accompany it was in the hall waiting for the odd man to come
through the baize doors with the luggage.

“Are Miss Verinder’s things down?” asked Mr. Verinder of somebody.

“No, sir,” said the butler, “I don’t think they are.”

“Where’s Hodson?”

Louisa Hodson leaned over the gilt balustrade on the first floor.

“Is Miss Verinder packed?”

“No, sir,” said Louisa; coming half-way down the stairs to meet
him as he came up them, and speaking confidentially when they met.
“Miss Verinder told me not to pack, sir. I think she has changed
her mind and doesn’t intend to go.”

It was open rebellion.



CHAPTER IV


Mr. Verinder gave his orders now--foolish ones, as such orders
always are. Miss Verinder was not to leave the house except when
accompanied by her maid, or her mother. In the case of her issuing
forth with Louisa Hodson, she was to account for the time spent
while away. Louisa must also account for it. Miss Verinder was to
go about with her mother as much as possible; to fulfil all social
engagements that had already been made; to do the afternoon drives
in Hyde Park, together with both her parents, and so on.

During the course of the morning he called upon his solicitors in
Spring Gardens, and saw the head of the firm, Mr. Williams. He
desired Mr. Williams to find out all about Anthony Dyke. “Find out
everything you can for me. I want the fullest information I can
get.” Mr. Williams, promising to do so, noticed that his client and
old friend looked gloomy and depressed; and the brief interview
terminated at once, without passing into the pleasant general chat
that was customary when Mr. Verinder came to Spring Gardens.

It has been said that Mr. Verinder had a love of law and order.
Truly, he adored them. We are all of us what our antecedent
history makes us; and Mr. Verinder, looking backward far beyond
his own birth, behind his grandfather’s birth even, could see such
beneficent factors as open markets, stable rates of exchange,
organised means of transport, together with banking and credit
systems that are really based on the confidence inspired by a firm
government--he could see all this not only as the solid foundation
on which the British Empire had been raised, but as the prime cause
of the success of those paper mills in the midlands from which he
and his family derived their wealth. The mills had long ceased to
give any trouble, they just went on; and he merely drew dividends
or travelled by train occasionally to attend board meetings. But,
of course, except for law and order, the mills could not have
maintained their initial impetus so comfortably.

He was proud to think that the mills made paper used by government
offices, and that his son Eustace--now aged thirty-three--was
actually a government official. Eustace, after taking honours
at the venerable long-established institution known as Oxford
University, had entered the Board of Trade--not to stay there for
ever, but as a step in his career; whereby he would lay up such
a store of useful knowledge with regard to the wider aspects of
national commerce as should enable him later on, when he went into
Parliament, handsomely to assist the government of the day instead
of hampering them with unenlightened criticism.

Except in relation to classical music, Mr. Verinder himself was
never critical. He was content to bow to acknowledged authority
in every form; respecting heads of professions and submitting to
expert opinions; believing in the wisdom of judges on the bench,
the art of Royal Academicians, the inspired logical faculty of
bishops in conclave. Although a stout Anglican, he could not in any
circumstances have brought himself to speak disparagingly of the
Pope.

Simply but completely he loved his house, taking daily pleasure in
its largeness, its unostentatious splendour, its immense comfort.
As he lay in bed at night he liked to think of the number of
people sleeping under his roof; also their dependence on him the
chieftain, who took care of their food and their well-being, who
had provided two bath-rooms solely for the servants’ use--one under
the tiles for the women, one down in the basement for the men. It
was a grand, well-managed house. It was his castle, his stronghold.
He looked at it with satisfaction every time that he walked or
drove up to it.

There was no taint of meanness in this feeling. He remembered with
unselfish gladness that several of his friends were almost if not
quite as fortunate. Mrs. Bell had one of the largest houses in
Queen’s Gate, and throughout the whole Cromwell Road there was
nothing bigger than Mrs. Clutton’s mansion. When speaking of these
ladies he rarely omitted to mention the fact.

He loved his neighbourhood too. In imagination he could see it
as finally completed, with the College of Music, the Colonial
Institute, and all the other fine edifices grouping together--much
as it is to-day. The Albert Hall was especially dear to him. He
owned a box in it; some of his money went annually towards its
maintenance. The vast and noble arena had no traditions earlier
than the Prince Consort, but, oh, what glorious traditions since!
It would be not too much to say that he derived a subtle kind of
intellectual support from the adjacency of the Albert Hall. It
stood there so close, unshakable, giving him a sensation directly
due to its height above the eye and its stretch to either hand;
solid and calm in its triumphant common-sense. For, if you want a
building to hold the greatest possible number of people, then make
it circular and avoid corners. Add a dome to render it sightly, but
do not sacrifice use to ornamentation.

Nor, for the life of him, could he understand why certain folk
tried to belittle the merit of the Albert Memorial. To him it
seemed a very beautiful monument. He rejoiced even in its accessory
groups of sculpture, admiring the taste and judgment that had led
the artist to select a camel as symbolic of Africa and an elephant
for Asia; often, when alone, he would mount the broad steps and
study the reliefs about the square base; with the assistance of the
chiselled names, he distinguished certain English Worthies, pausing
here and there to gaze reverently at the genial attitude of Barry
or the contemplative brow of Wren. English Worthies--the very title
was pleasant to him; so honest and unpretentious. English Worthies!
He was almost one himself--of course on a small scale, in a humble
way.

He thought of Dyke as a subversive agency--an enemy to peace;
something unamenable, uncontrollable, that suddenly threatened him,
his family, and the whole neighbourhood. He began to hate Dyke, as
the best of men begin to hate the thing they dread. It appeared
to him now that he had seen through Dyke from the first moment,
but that he had refused to be guided or warned by the clear light
of his own intuitive intelligence. “I’d like to know that girl
over there. Who is she?” when Dyke said something of that sort, he
should have resented it as an impertinence and not accepted it as a
compliment. Then Dyke had laughed, blatantly--offensively, if you
came to think of it. “Pardon me for being a untutored savage.”
But, no, one cannot pardon savagery--except in savage lands, at
a remote distance, beyond the pale. One has to protect oneself
against its effects. He wished that somehow he could get the
whip-hand of Dyke. And yet even now, so kindly and trustful was he
by nature, that at the very moment of dreading and hating Dyke, he
could not believe the man really meant mischief.

Within his narrow limits he was always generous-minded. Markedly so
with regard to money matters--and perhaps there is still no surer
test of a person’s magnanimity than that which can be obtained by
a record of his consistent attitude towards hard cash. Unlike many
men who have all the money that they require, he did not crave for
more. No petty gains or economies ever lured him. For instance,
although Emmeline had come into the enjoyment of her income, he
had never suggested or dreamed of suggesting that she should make
any contribution to household expenses. She was freely welcome to
bed and board, the attendance of Louisa, the use of the carriages.
He had advised her to draw only such a portion of her income as
she needed, leaving Mr. Williams of Spring Gardens to reinvest all
surplus; and it made him happy to feel that she was doing this, and
increasing her modest capital quarter by quarter.

Now, not unnaturally, he thought--as Mrs. Verinder had already
thought--that, so far as a whip-hand over Emmeline was concerned,
the soundness of her financial position robbed him of much
desirable power.

This was Mr. Verinder. Unless one knew him and did him justice,
one could not understand his state of mind. He was not in any
respects the conventional old-fashioned father that lingered in the
comic literature of the period. About him there was nothing either
grotesque or preposterous.

After all, it was only 1895; say twenty-seven years ago--yesterday.
There are large numbers of people to-day who think as he did then.
There are men at his club and at other clubs saying in essence
just what he used to say--when, not thinking of Emmeline, but
merely generalising, he spoke of fin-de-siècle girls who mistake
license for freedom, of regrettable up-to-date ideas, of the danger
of abusing the word progress and pulling down before you have
learnt to build up;--men who have passed through the devastating
experience of the world-war and are less shaken by its rivers of
blood, its fiery chaos, its starving millions, than by the social
readjustments it has occasioned--“the passing of the old order,” as
they call it--and the fact that half the members of the club won’t
even trouble to put on a white shirt and a black tie for dinner.

       *       *       *       *       *

A week passed, and, to Mr. Verinder’s supreme satisfaction,
Emmeline showed herself altogether docile and amenable. She
attended parties, she drove in the park, she spent afternoons and
evenings with their friend Mrs. Bell, at Queen’s Gate, and was
punctually brought home from these visits by Louisa. Mr. Verinder
highly approved of them. Mrs. Bell was devoted to Emmeline,
had always admired and made much of the child. Here would be a
good influence. But not a hint had been given to Mrs. Bell of
any trouble in the air. The only people who knew of the cause
of anxiety were Margaret--and presumably Pratt--and, of course,
Eustace.

Another week passed. The twelfth of July with its dinner party lay
behind them. That feast, although shorn of its guest of honour,
had not proved too dismal, all things considered. And in those
two weeks not a sign from the enemy. Lulled into a sense of false
security, Mr. Verinder began to feel easy in his mind.

Then he discovered that Dyke had been out of London for a
fortnight. Dyke was in Scotland, giving lectures at the great
Scottish cities. “Taking the hat round,” as he had himself
described it. A banquet had been given in his honour at Edinburgh,
with many notabilities present; the speechifying was recorded by
the public press.

After another week or ten days Dyke returned to London. His
return was chronicled in all the newspapers. They again began to
make a fuss about him. And Mr. Verinder, at his club, had the
mortification of hearing his praises sung by certain members of it.
He had dined here, at Mr. Verinder’s club, last night--a little
dinner in his honour, given by Duff-Steele, a personal friend of
Mr. Verinder’s--with So-and-so, and So-and-so--and a few more. Dyke
had kept them there yarning until two or three in the morning.
They said, in effect, that he was entirely fascinating; a great
irresponsible child, full of the most infectious gaiety. A real
tip-topper, madcap, dare-devil--whatever you like--but evidently
behind it all, a heart of gold. How he had talked! How he had
laughed!

When Mr. Verinder reached home that afternoon Mrs. Verinder at once
reported that Emmeline had become restless--very restless indeed.
She felt that it would be necessary to watch her closely.

They did it for the next week or so, but Mr. Verinder had the
uncomfortable sensation, shared by his wife, that no matter how
carefully you watched, more was going on than met the eye. An
atmosphere of suspicion permeated all the reception rooms of the
house; Mr. Verinder’s discomfort and annoyance increased day by day.

Although Mr. Williams of Spring Gardens had long ago written to say
he was prepared to communicate the result of his investigations,
Mr. Verinder had not yet gone to receive them. He went now, after
luncheon one day, and took Eustace from the Board of Trade with him.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a candour and unpretentiousness about the very best sort
of solicitors that is sometimes almost startling to their clients.
If you speak of investments, a really good solicitor will say at
once that he is not a business man; if you speak of an attack on
your character or a possible career for your children, he will say
he is not a man of the world; if you are involved in a wrangle and
fancy you have publicly libelled your adversary, he will say that
he is not a lawyer. He doesn’t in the least mean that he will not
carry through to a triumphant conclusion the affair, whatever it
is, that you are bringing to him; he only means that he lays no
claim to keeping a mass of encyclopædic knowledge on the tip of
his tongue, to giving oracular decisions at a moment’s notice, or
seeing through a brick wall without the aid of a periscope. He will
take a little time going into the matter thoroughly, obtaining
counsel’s opinion, doing everything necessary. Meanwhile and at
once, in your presence, he often consults his books of reference;
and it must be confessed that this reliance on books and the
guileless manner of speaking about them does often disconcert,
if it does not shake a client. “You doubt if your bargain is
clinched?” says the really eminent solicitor; and he rings the bell
for his clerk. “Bring me that book on Contracts, latest edition.
And see if we have a directory of county court judges downstairs. I
want to ascertain if there is any county court south of the Thames.
And, look here, go upstairs and give my compliments to Mr. Cyril
and ask him if he knows whether the Stock Exchange is open on Bank
Holidays.”

Mr. Williams, of Spring Gardens, or his firm, had long conducted
the affairs of the Verinder family in a most efficient style. He
himself relied greatly on his books, which he kept in handsome
book-cases in his own room. This solid old-world room was lighted
by narrow windows with reflecting mirrors above them, and had
no encumbrances of deed boxes and that sort of thing; a large
beautifully neat table for Mr. Williams, a fine comfortable
leather-seated chair for visitors, the picture of a marine battle
over the chimneypiece, and one or two marble busts on top of the
book-cases--that was all; and with these simple surroundings the
owner of the room worked in it very happily and contentedly;
looking up with a friendly smile as you came in at the door, and
showing himself as a shortish, stoutish, fresh-complexioned person
of sixty-five or a little more. As his intimates knew, he had only
one sorrow in life--the certainty that sooner or later this room,
the whole Queen Anne house, and the rest of Spring Gardens, would
be swept away by London’s unbridled rage for street improvements.
But he hoped they would last his time.

He begged Mr. Verinder and Mr. Eustace Verinder to sit down, and
with an air of innocent triumph said that he had found out a great
deal about Anthony Dyke.

“I may say that directly you mentioned the name, it seemed familiar
to me.”

“It is familiar to everyone,” said old Mr. Verinder rather
irritably, and his son sneered. Eustace had a trick of sneering and
saying pointed things, in a polite Oxford manner on which he had
superimposed a slight veneer of officialness.

“To begin with,” said Mr. Williams, “he is a married man.”

“Yes, I knew that,” said Mr. Verinder.

“Oh, you did? But he is not living with his wife.”

“So I understood.”

“They have been separated for years--and there is a reason.” And
Mr. Williams explained how he had found it all in his book. “I have
it all here under my hand”; and he laid his hand on the useful
volume, lying there on the table. “As soon as you told me the
name it aroused associations in my memory--apart from his public
performances, you know. There was a law suit--years ago--quite an
important case. Mrs. Dyke proved to be out of her mind--immediately
after the wedding--and Dyke tried to get the marriage annulled, on
the grounds that her people had deceived him. He failed of course.”

Mr. Verinder had not known about the madness, and he sat frowning
and brooding over it. Then presently he asked what Mr. Williams had
discovered about the man himself.

“Yes,” said Mr. Williams, “I have his whole record here.” And he
began to read from a paper of notes, saying that Anthony Dyke left
Africa for Australia in such and such a year; was thanked by the
government of Queensland for explorations in the interior of the
continent in the year 1885; and in 1887 made his first Antarctic
cruise, which resulted in the discovery of the island now known
as Anthony Dyke Land. It was of course all in the books, and Mr.
Verinder, who already knew it by heart, interrupted very irritably.

“Yes, yes, yes. No more than that? Very good.” Then, after
exchanging a glance with Eustace, he said, “Williams, the fact
is--Frankly, our trouble is this. He is paying undesirable
attentions to my daughter.”

“Oh, really?” Mr. Williams showed suitable distress as well as
surprise, and he looked across at the bookcases. “Which of your
daughters?”

“My unmarried daughter.”

“Oh, really? Miss Emmeline!”

“Yes. What would you advise me to do?”

“Ah, that’s somewhat difficult to say. Off-hand, I should scarcely
like--”

And another look given by Mr. Williams to the book-shelves was that
of a timid swimmer who feels deep water under him and sees the
solid shore fast receding. “From what you have let fall--well, so
little to go on, from what you _have_ let fall.”

Mr. Verinder let everything fall, and pressed for counsel.

And then Mr. Williams, bracing himself to the effort and striking
out boldly, advised that in his opinion Dyke should be at once
tackled.

“Tackled?” said Mr. Verinder. “What do you mean by tackled?”

Mr. Williams meant brought to book, called to account, and so
forth; and he said something that Mr. Verinder grasped at because
it echoed a hope that he was still glad not to abandon altogether.
Mr. Williams considered that, although there had been impropriety
in Dyke’s attitude, they might be very wrong in assuming that he
really entertained bad motives.

“Why jump to the conclusion that he intends harm? Tackle him, and
he himself may express regret and discontinue the annoyance. Would
you wish me to write him a letter?”

“No,” said Mr. Verinder. “But perhaps an interview here, in your
presence?”

Mr. Williams, not taking to this idea, suggested that it would be
better to get hold of Dyke informally; and after further talk it
was decided that Eustace Verinder should go to him not for the real
tackling, but for a preliminary skirmish in which an interview with
the young lady’s father should be arranged.

“You know him personally?” asked Mr. Williams.

“No,” said Eustace, sneering slightly. “As yet I have not had the
privilege of setting eyes on this gentleman.”

“One moment,” said Mr. Williams, picking up the notes. “I have his
address here. It is care of his bankers--a bank in Fleet Street.”

But the Verinders were better informed. Dyke’s visiting cards told
them that he belonged to a club in Pall Mall--one of the oldest and
best clubs in the street.

“When will you go there?” asked Mr. Williams.

“Now,” said Eustace resolutely.

He parted with his father in Cockspur Street, and strolled on to
Pall Mall by himself.

It was now what journalists of those days called the apotheosis of
the London season; what was then considered a flood of traffic came
pouring down Waterloo Place; large open carriages with a mother
and one daughter on the back seat, and a red book and another
daughter on the front seat, swept across to and from Carlton House
Terrace, while splendid padded veterans at the corner outside the
Senior and sedate members of the Government outside the Athenæum
took off their silk hats or even kissed the tips of their gloved
fingers. The pavements of Pall Mall were full of gentlemen in
black coats and top hats, with here and there a white waistcoat
and a button-hole to light up the throng; the sentry in scarlet
and bearskin outside the War Office stood presenting arms to
the passage of a field officer; and one had a sensation of the
further glories at the end of the street--Marlborough House, with
the Prince and Princess of Wales perhaps just emerging from the
gates, the old palace where a brilliant levée had taken place that
morning, the drive shaded by close-standing elms along which people
drove to daylight drawing-rooms--an impression of the leisurely
pomp, the well-ordered stately calm of the whole realm.

It was 1895, essentially yesterday, and yet, if judged by external
aspect alone, another world--the world in which people behaved
with dignity, looked pleasant, and never did objectionable things.
Eustace Verinder, tall, dark, already bald under his silk hat,
looking like the cabinet-minister that he intended later on to be,
formed a small but harmonious part of this world; and his blood
boiled tepidly at the thought that any intruder should dare at
once to violate the governing code of good manners and menace his
sister’s fair name.

As he approached Dyke’s club an amazingly incongruous figure came
down its steps. It was a tall big man in a sombrero hat, with a
canvas wallet slung over his back and a long staff in his hand;
he looked like a pilgrim, like a youthful Tolstoy, like anything
strange and odd and absurdly out of place. Eustace noticed the
outlandish dun colour of his flannel suit, the huge collar of
his flannel shirt flapping over his jacket and all open at the
hairy throat, and, feeling shocked at such a moving outrage to
convention, stared after him as he stalked across the roadway and
disappeared into St. James Square.

The hall porter told Eustace that Mr. Dyke had just left the club.
“Just this minute, sir. Shall I send the boy to see if he can catch
him?”

Eustace said no, it did not matter. He felt that he ought to have
guessed, after all his father had told him. But it was so far worse
than one could imagine. He went away feeling profoundly disgusted.
To dress like that, in London, at half past three P.M., with the
season at its apotheosis!

Anthony Dyke had, in fact, dressed like that only because he
was going for a walk. He felt that, yielding to civilization’s
enticements, he had been for some time sitting too much, eating
too much, above all else sleeping too much, and he needed a walk.
He had therefore slipped on what seemed to him very suitable
attire for the purpose, gone to the club coffee-room to fill his
wallet with some fruit and a few rolls of bread--and now was off.
Naturally, with the hero of the Andes, a walk meant a walk. He
would go straight ahead, over Hampstead Heath into Hertfordshire,
round that county and any other counties adjacent; he would walk
all night, and probably all day to-morrow; then he would come back,
have a bath, and feel thoroughly refreshed--the limbs loosened by
gentle exercise, civilization’s rust rubbed out of his joints and
the mind clarified by avoidance of slumber.



CHAPTER V


Rather less than a week after this Dyke came to Prince’s Gate by
appointment. All the preliminaries for the interview had been
completed by letters and in the most courteous manner on both
sides. Greatly as the Verinders hated him, they felt that there
was no other way of doing things. Mr. Verinder, then, politely
expressing a wish to see Mr. Dyke for the purpose of discussing
“certain matters,” Mr. Dyke had replied that he was entirely at Mr.
Verinder’s service and begged that place and time should be named.
Mr. Verinder named his own house and nine o’clock in the evening;
choosing an evening on which Emmeline could be conveniently
banished from the premises.

Mrs. Verinder had taken her to dine quietly with Mrs. Bell in
Queen’s Gate, and afterwards they and their hostess were going to
a concert given by an elderly widower. The widower had hired the
Grosvenor Gallery for his concert; it would be a grand and a late
affair; thus Mr. Verinder need not apprehend the return of his
ladies until long after midnight. The docility with which Emmeline
agreed to these arrangements had made him wonder suspiciously if
she had received confirmative instructions from the enemy. He
trusted, however, that this was not so.

It was now a quarter to nine, and he and Eustace and Mrs.
Verinder’s brother, Colonel Gussie Pollard, were seated at the
dinner table finishing their dessert. The presence of their
brother-in-law and uncle bothered Mr. Verinder, but there had
seemed to be no way of avoiding it; for his own convenience he was
staying in the house, he now had learned all about their trouble,
and his sister said she thought he would add weight to their side
of the discussion.

“I should not scruple myself to tell him it isn’t cricket,” said
Colonel Gussie, beginning to peel a second nectarine.

He was one of those very large, radiantly smooth elderly men who
take inordinate pains in cleaning, polishing, and decorating their
persons. The dress-suit of Colonel Gussie, his white waistcoat, his
jewelled buttons, studs, and little chains, suggested that he felt
he could never do quite enough for himself; and, as if for this
reason, his face was garnished with every small blob of white hair
that can be grown on a face--moustache, whisker, imperial, even
something under the plump chin, but each sample small and nicely
trimmed, and all of it neatly divided. Through the white hair his
complexion showed with the silvery pinkness of an uncooked salmon.
For the rest, he had a genial yet grand manner, was not disposed to
think evil of anybody, and when compelled to censure knew no worse
verdict than to say that a thing was not cricket.

If pushed beyond that mark and as it were forced to put on the
black cap and pass a final sentence of condemnation, he said the
thing was un-English.

Mr. Verinder secretly objected to his insistence on calling
himself colonel, since he was not a regular soldier but merely in
command of a militia or volunteer battalion attached to one of the
city regiments; and he thought it childish of him to like to be
addressed as Gussie instead of Augustus.

“Wouldn’t be playing the game,” said Colonel Gussie, as he finished
his nectarine with relish.

Then, after saying he knew that Emmeline was not contaminated
with anything of this kind, he spoke in disapproval of these
modern notions that were tending to upset the feminine half of
humanity--“emancipation,” “the new woman,” “equal rights,” and so
on. It was one thing to like advanced education and keep yourself
“up-to-date”; but this impressionist art, this Yellow Book, and all
these “problem plays”--well, they did no good, did they? There was
too much of the spirit of revolt in the air.

Eustace smoked his cigarette and stared at the ceiling. Mr.
Verinder allowed his brother-in-law to talk, only saying once, as
if to himself, “Freedom, yes, so long as it does not degenerate
into license.”

Then the butler came in, and informed them that Mr. Dyke was
upstairs.

The colonel rose at once, drawing himself to his full height, which
was at least six feet three inches, and looking magnificent.

“Come on,” he said; and they all three went upstairs to that
room behind the music-room--the room that contained the smiling
landscapes by Leader. Mr. Verinder had ordered that Dyke should be
shown into this room, because he felt it was large enough and yet
not too large for their purposes.

In spite of the hatred, the interview opened with extreme propriety
and politeness, but Mr. Verinder was at once oppressed by its
incredible fantastic nature. It was as though he had not been
really Mr. Verinder, here, among these smiling landscapes, in
Prince’s Gate, but a person wrenched out of a land of probabilities
and launched on an ocean of the impossible.

Dyke was in evening clothes, and perhaps recently his hair had
been cut and his beard pointed; at any rate, that aspect of
Tolstoy or the pilgrim had entirely vanished. He was standing
on the hearth-rug when they came in, and he did not move; he
stood there, a tall commanding figure; handsome too--with his
strong nose and high cheek-bones--in a careless, dare-devil, but
not swash-bucklering style; not really taller than the others,
certainly less tall and very much less round than the colonel, and
yet somehow dominating them and the whole room.

Eustace understood that they had made a mistake in procedure. It
was a trifle--no consequence, of course--but it vexed him to think
how very obviously they should have had him brought into a room
where they were sitting, so that he would have seemed like a person
summoned before a tribunal, instead of establishing him here by
himself and then coming to him, to be received by him as though
they were a deputation.

“Will you smoke?” said Eustace curtly, and he opened the silver
cigarette box that he had brought up from the dinner table.

With a gravely courteous gesture and smile--the gesture indeed
almost Spanish and antiquated in its courtesy--Dyke indicated that
he preferred not to smoke.

“My son--Eustace,” said Mr. Verinder. “And my
brother-in-law--Colonel Pollard.”

“Miss Verinder’s godfather too,” said the colonel, seating himself.

Dyke ignored the second introduction; not rudely, but as if all
that pinkness and whiteness had made no impression on him. He
appeared to be quite unaware of them, and throughout this first
interview spoke not a single word to their possessor.

“I was admiring that picture,” he said with another gesture, and he
smiled again. “Mr. Verinder, I don’t pretend to be a judge of art,
but I must say, that picture took my fancy enormously. So cleverly
painted--all the autumn tints of the foliage, and the effect of
the sunshine on the lake.” He said this as if wishing to put them
at their ease and allow them time. “A very charming picture--in my
uneducated opinion.”

“It is by Leader, R. A.,” said Mr. Verinder simply. “I have several
of them.”

He had sat down at a table on which were blotting pads with
tortoise-shell covers, boxes of porcelain, a gold photograph frame,
and a massive ivory paper-knife; picking up the knife and toying
with it, he conveyed the intimation that he wished Mr. Dyke to sit
upon the amber satin sofa which faced the table at about two yards
distance.

Dyke, immediately obeying, went to the sofa and sat down.

Eustace had gone to the double doors and he opened one of them,
disclosing the music-room as a sombre and empty vault. He closed
the door again and turning from it said that, since they were here
for a delicate confidential talk, it was just as well to make sure
they would not be overheard. This, as he had intended, set the
thing going.

Mr. Verinder, balancing the paper-knife, drove at the heart of the
matter and spoke of “these attentions and meetings.” He said he
felt sure that Dyke would himself see that they must cease.

“Mr. Verinder,” said Dyke, gravely and very gently, “I hope you
will allow me to say that I would sooner die than injure your
daughter.”

“Just so,” said Mr. Verinder. “I was quite prepared to believe so,
but--”

Dyke interrupted him. “No, I would rather kill myself many times
than harm a hair of her head.” As he said this, not only his voice
but his face softened in the most extraordinary manner; and Mr.
Verinder was pleased with the man for saying it. But Dyke went on,
with his blue eyes fixed on Mr. Verinder and his voice becoming a
mere whisper. “Not one pretty dark hair of her sweet little head.”

The outrageous use of such adjectives made Mr. Verinder tremble
from wrath; but, with difficulty controlling himself, he spoke in a
firm quiet tone.

“If there is any meaning in what you are saying, Mr. Dyke, you will
give me an assurance that no further molestation will occur.”

Dyke remained silent for a little while, and during the pause
Gussie was heard to mention the national pastime--“Not cricket,
what!” Dyke did not seem to hear him; he was now looking at the
parquetry. “Mr. Verinder,” he said, looking up, “this is not
plain-sailing, it is complicated. I suppose you know that Emmie--”

Mr. Verinder flapped with the paper-knife and grew hot and red.
The use of his daughter’s christian name, the use of a grossly
familiar abbreviation of that name! Not a member of the family ever
called her anything shorter than Emmeline. But Dyke went on, as if
oblivious of his offence.

“Emmie has done me the honour--the very great honour--to become
attached to me. Mr. Verinder, you do know that, don’t you?
Emmie--God bless her--has become very fond of me.”

“Nothing of the sort,” said Mr. Verinder wrathfully; and both the
colonel and Eustace made movements.

Dyke’s manner changed, and he spoke with a sudden biting hardness.
“Unless,” he said, “you admit that, it is useless for us to attempt
to discuss the situation.”

Mr. Verinder said he would not admit it; certainly not. But, on
consideration, he said he would go as far as possible to meet
Dyke’s argument; he would admit as much as this--that, to some
extent, Dyke had unfortunately fascinated the imagination of her;
against a young inexperienced girl Dyke had employed the advantage
given by age, the glamour of romance, and so forth; and he wound up
to the effect that two hundred years ago it would have been said
that Dyke had thrown a spell over her.

Dyke answered, sadly, that he had thrown no spell. The first
evening he had certainly told her a few of his adventures.

“Oh, yes,” said Eustace, sneering. “Othello and Desdemona”;
and he quoted a few words of the famous speech. “‘Hair-breadth
escapes--antres vast and deserts idle.’ But then Othello wasn’t a
married man. Unfortunately you are.”

Dyke had now risen from the sofa. He walked about the room and
began to make a noise. To Mr. Verinder, in the midst of his
anger and distress, the striding up and down of Dyke was a fresh
discomfort, a new surface-sting. If anybody walked about rooms in
that house, it should be he, the master of the house; it was a
habit of his. No one else had the right to take the floor on him.

“Of course I’m married,” said Dyke, loudly, almost shouting. “How
can I help that? It’s my misfortune, not my fault. Besides, I told
her so. I told her so at once.”

“She doesn’t weigh the consequences,” said the father.

“She _has_ weighed them,” Dyke shouted. Then he went on more
quietly, but with the incisive hardness that was almost worse
than noise. “Besides, she’s over twenty-one; she has independent
means--why shouldn’t she do what she likes? She’s her own mistress.”

“Exactly. But we don’t want her to be your mistress,” said the
sneering brother. “That’s just what it amounts to.”

From this point onwards the thing was devoid of hope; and they
knew it really. Dyke made more and more noise; he rumpled his
hair, brandished his arms, broke his shirt front; and the other
three felt their helplessness. How could they tackle this hulking
ruffian, this savage in dress clothes who disregarded all rules,
who cared nothing for civilization? They were three tame men, and
utterly impotent against a wild man. He overwhelmed their minds
by his unchecked fierceness; but it should be noted that they had
not any unworthy physical fear of him, although Eustace, more
particularly, felt that at any moment Dyke might strike him. That
odd, hideously vulgar expression, A word and a blow, echoed in the
troubled thoughts of Eustace. A blow, a struggle, a disgraceful
episode, at any moment now.

They appealed to his better feeling, and he seemed to have none.
They spoke of law and decency, and he inveighed against the cursed
law. A wife that wasn’t a wife, but tied to her irrevocably--a
millstone round his neck--“Poor unhappy lady, God forgive me for
speaking of her like that. _She’s_ not to blame. No, no, it’s the
law’s to blame.”

As he said all this he was banging on the table in front of Mr.
Verinder, so forcibly that the porcelain boxes danced and the gold
frame fell over.

“It’s fellows like you who make these infernal laws. Why don’t you
alter them? Why do you allow people to be tormented and bedevilled
because that sort of thing pleased a pack of dirty verminous monks
hundreds of years ago? Poor little innocent Emmie too! I feel the
cruelty of her situation just as much as you do--and a dashed sight
more. It’s monstrous and iniquitous”; and he strode away from the
table waving his arms.

In every lull Mr. Verinder said the same sort of thing--that facts
were facts, laws laws, proprieties proprieties. “You must see it,
Mr. Dyke. On reflection, you _must_ see it. I decline to believe
that you yourself will wish to continue--”

Dyke swore that he had no choice; he would continue, he could not
stop.

“What do you propose to do then?” asked Mr. Verinder.

“What do you want me to do?” asked Dyke.

Mr. Verinder said he wanted Dyke to give her up altogether.

“_Never!_” Dyke roared at them now.

So the thing went on. Eustace was livid with rage, trembling.
The colonel, unnoticed, chattered and fumed. Mr. Verinder felt
possessed by that sensation of the dreamlike nature, the sheer
fantasticness of it all--this quiet room, with the loud voices
in it, servants probably listening on the stairs; yet also the
awareness of the framework of society all round them still
unbroken; his friends next door enjoying a little music after
dinner in one of _their_ drawing-rooms, or playing a rubber of
whist for moderate points; a small evening-party at Number Ten;
above everything, the Albert Hall such a little distance away,
with a ballad concert as usual;--only in here this raging lunatic
trying to turn the whole world upside down. But perhaps the
colonel’s agitation and horror were even more painful than what
his brother-in-law underwent. To him the thing was so appallingly
obnoxious, so immeasurably far from the spirit of the game he
worshipped. He continued to say it; and close to his lips,
contained but certain to be released if the strain lasted, there
hovered the crushing black-cap epithet--un-English.

“I shan’t give her up.”

Dyke was blustering fiercely as he moved here and there. Once he
threatened Eustace, saying that if there was any attempt to bully
Emmie, he would break every bone in his body. Finally he left them,
mentally shattered.

He was gone, right out of the house.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, quite late, after eleven-thirty, there was a tremendous
sustained ringing of the front-door bell. What could it be? The
house on fire? Mr. Verinder, half unrobed, hurried down from
his dressing-room to the first floor, and looked over the gilt
balustrade into the hall. It was the man come back again--but
altered, strange, in a totally different mood. He forced his way
past the butler, past Eustace, past Gussie, and shouted upward.

“Verinder, I must talk to you. Verinder--my dear fellow--I can’t
sleep to-night, until you and I have settled it.”

And he came up the stairs; with Eustace and the colonel following,
both of them really scared now.

“Go in there,” said Eustace, and, while Dyke entered the darkened
room, he whispered to his father: “If he is violent I shall send
for the police.”

Mr. Verinder ran up for a dressing-jacket, came down and sat at the
same table, looking queer without his collar. As Eustace switched
on the lamps the Leaders sprang into life, smiling at them all
again. Dyke threw his slouch hat and an Inverness cape to the
floor, stood with his hair absurdly ruffled; then sank upon the
amber satin sofa.

“I have been walking about, feeling half mad,” he began in a humble
tone, then paused. His face was strangely pale, as though all the
blood had gone from it; and they noticed, during the pause, that he
seemed suddenly to shiver or gasp for breath. “Look here. I want
to apologise to you--Out there, trying to think, I felt that I
deserved to be kicked. Anybody would say you’re quite right--from
your point of view.” And he looked at them most piteously. “I’m
sorry I made a noise. But please make allowances. This--this
entanglement--or whatever you like to call it--is so tragically
serious for both of us. I mean for her as well as for me. That’s
why I beg you to bear with me--to reach an understanding, a
solution--to do anything rather than just quarrel about it. If, to
begin with, you can only put yourself in my place”; and he seemed
to be wringing his hands. “Verinder, I want that girl. I simply
can’t live without her.”

He said these last words in a hoarse whisper that was more
disturbing to hear than if it had been a loud cry of pain. It
jarred upon the ear, it set one’s teeth on edge; and the expression
of his haggard face added to the physical commotion he produced,
even if one did not think of what he had said. The colonel felt the
commotion all through his stout body; Eustace held up an arm, as if
calling for invisible cabs.

“Verinder!” He was perceptibly shivering--a tremor that made
his limbs jerk. “Verinder--don’t you see? This is tearing me to
pieces. Surely you can comprehend? You were young once--under
forty, full of life. Perhaps you were unhappy too--as I have
been--lonely--Didn’t you ever feel the longing to make a girl your
own?”

Mr. Verinder, once more white with anger, shouted in his turn.
“Will you remember that I am her father.”

“I know. Forgive me. I express myself badly.” And he sat staring
at the carpet, and shivering as though some fever of the jungle
again had him in its clutch. They watched him; and when he raised
his head they saw it for moment convulsed and twitching. He put
his hand to his forehead, and then continued to speak. “You and
I must have it out, mustn’t we? We can’t leave it all in doubt.
I must settle it before I sail for South America”; and he gave a
groan. “I want that girl. I can’t live without her. She has become
the whole world to me. She wants me, too. And, remember, other
people mayn’t want her like that--I mean, as I do.” As he went on
it seemed to them that delirium had set in. He was raving at them
now. “We can’t do without each other. Well, that’s love. Love!
What is it? I can’t say. But no one’s to blame for it. A chance? A
fatality? Some day these things will be scientifically ascertained,
and then the accident of love will be avoidable--to be guarded
against. But it isn’t now.”

He paused as if for breath, and cast glances round the room before
he went on again.

“Verinder, I know you want to do what’s right and proper. You’re
a man of high principle--no one could doubt that. Only don’t be
hide-bound--or tied down by prejudice. Look the thing in the face.
I see the obstacles, plainly, from your point of view--but somehow
we _must_ get over them. You and your friends are people of the
world--you have all sorts of social riddles at your fingers’ ends.
Can’t you find an answer? Can’t you cut the knot? If we could
only tide over--get round the obstacle--then we should come to
daylight one day. No,” he cried forcibly. “I mustn’t say that--I
mustn’t hint that my unhappy wife may die and cut the knot herself.
Besides, it isn’t true. Her physical health is excellent. She’ll
probably live to a hundred”; and once more he groaned. “But one
thing is certain, Verinder. You can’t say we must be left quite
without hope--and remain divided for ever. Oh, no, that would be
inhuman. Neither of us could submit. Verinder, my dear fellow, it’s
in your power to make it hard for us or easy. Don’t make it hard
for us.”

All this last part of his appeal had seemed to them worse than
delirium, grotesque and terrible in its nearness to a kind of
perverted impossible logic. Now he seemed suddenly to collapse on
the sofa in a fit of profound dejection. His back stooped, his
hands dangled down between his knees, his head subsided almost upon
his chest, and he sighed at brief intervals. They watched him, as
if spellbound.

He changed his attitude, and sat now with an elbow on the back of
the sofa and his head leaning on his hand; and he sighed, as if
sick with emotion.

Then there occurred what was perhaps the most astounding incident
of the night. The colonel had launched his last word; now he darted
round behind the sofa, bent over Dyke, seized his shoulder, and
shook him. What was it? Some deep invincible instinct of remote
antiquity--the instinct that compels the tame animal to take all
risks and fly at and worry the wild beast when it lies prostrate
and in pain? Or was it just frenzy and disgust aroused in the
colonel by the sight and the sound of something so devastatingly
un-English. But Dyke, plainly supposing that the action was
prompted by compassionate sympathy, spoke to the colonel for the
first time, and in tones of grateful affection.

“Thanks, old boy,” said Dyke; and then, as the colonel continued to
shake his shoulder, “Don’t trouble, dear old chap. I shall be all
right directly.”

The colonel dropped his hands and tottered away from the sofa. To
him the thing had become like the fourth dimension, or the fifth;
beyond the range of intellect, brain-destroying. He thought vaguely
that if it went on he should faint.

Mr. Verinder was running his fingers round the open neck of his
shirt. He felt that his universe had crumbled. He felt that the
only sane thing for him to do would be to speak as if to a child,
and say, “Mr. Dyke, stop making these afflicted noises; get up, go
home to bed, and don’t be so ridiculous.” He would have said it
perhaps, if he could. But strangely, inexplicably, Mr. Dyke was
_not_ ridiculous; he was still awe-inspiring--dreadful. Yes, that
was the word. In the language of the locality, the man had made a
dreadful exhibition.

He got up presently, without being told to do so.

“It’s not a bit of good my making promises that I can’t keep. I’ve
made one promise about it already--to my father--and I’ll keep
that. My father’s a clergyman--in Devonshire.”

He shook hands with Mr. Verinder, gave the colonel a wan smile, and
went. Eustace let him out, watched by Gussie; the butler standing
by, looking very anxious.

When they came upstairs again Mr. Verinder was still sitting at the
table.

“Do you think Dyke had been drinking?” he asked, tapping with the
paper knife.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Eustace.

“He didn’t smell of alcohol,” said Gussie, “when I stooped over him
on the sofa.”

“That makes it all the worse,” said Mr. Verinder, stonily.

“Thank goodness,” said Eustace, “that mother and Emmeline didn’t
come back before we had got rid of him.” And he lit a cigarette
with fingers that trembled.

After this they had a plain perception of the force they were up
against. As Mr. Verinder looked at the imposing façade of the
house, he felt that, solid as he had always considered it to be,
it afforded a frail protection. He sighed as he drove away from
it--his menaced stronghold, his undermined fortress.

He went once again to see Mr. Williams in Spring Gardens, but
without any hope that Mr. Williams would be able to help him.

“What can one do?”

Mr. Williams seemed to think that one could do nothing.

“You mean to say,” said Mr. Verinder, frowning, “that if I know
this man intends to abduct my daughter--”

“Oh, you can hardly call it that, I think,” said Mr. Williams;
and he moved towards his book-shelves, as if with the intention
of taking out the letter A and looking up the article entitled
Abduction. But then he was mechanically checked by something
already in his mind. “By the way, Miss Verinder herself has been
here.”

“She has, has she? What for?”

“To ask about her securities. She wants all papers sent to her
bank. She said she would discontinue our arrangements, you know,
and henceforth manage her affairs herself. She brought her maid
with her, and they took some papers I gave her then and there
straight on to the bank, I believe.”

Mr. Verinder thought that this was very significant. He said it
suggested premeditated defiance and rebellion.

The solicitor said, smiling mildly, that she had not the air of
“a rebel.” No, she had seemed “very quiet and sensible,” and
he somehow implied that he would like to venture to add “very
good-looking, too.”

In conclusion, Mr. Verinder asked, “Would you advise me to have her
watched by detectives?”

“Oh, surely not? What could be gained by that?”

“It is her mother’s suggestion. At least we should then know her
movements--and perhaps some of his. He alleges that he means soon
to sail for South America. Of course, if one knew for certain that
he was out of the country! If we did do it, could you arrange it
for us?”

Mr. Williams said yes, if really necessary; but he must own that
this class of thing was not in his line, or in the line of the firm.

“Then I will not trouble you further,” said Mr. Verinder stiffly.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Emmeline,” he said that afternoon, or on an afternoon very near to
it, “come in here, please, I want to speak to you.”

Mrs. Verinder had given him a warning; he was flushed, angry,
uncomfortable, as he stood at the dining-room door and waited for
his daughter. He spoke sternly now, as she appeared at the bottom
of the staircase.

“Father, I am going out.”

“Going out as late as this? Why, it’s nearly seven o’clock. And
where’s your maid? Where’s that girl--where’s Louisa?”

“I don’t require her. I’m not going far.”

“No, so I think.” He made her come into the dining-room, and he
closed the door behind her.

She was wearing a queer little fashionable hat made of chip straw,
with rosebud ornaments, and a white spotted veil neatly drawn
under her chin; her dark simple dress was of the kind then known
as “tailor-made,” fitting close to the waist, but enormously wide
at the shoulders; as she stood looking at her father and quivering
in anxiety, she had that gentle inoffensive charm of feminine
prettiness which du Maurier was at the moment drawing so cleverly.

“Father, I beg you not to detain me. I have an appointment.”

“You won’t keep it. Do you understand? Sit down. I won’t allow you
to leave this room.”

“Do you mean you’ll use force to prevent me?”

“If necessary. Sit down--over there.”

She sat down then, meekly, despairingly; but almost immediately she
got up again.

“Father, let me go, please. To-morrow he is leaving London for a
day or two. I want to see him before that.”

Although she had not moved from her chair, he stepped between it
and the door; and he angrily told her to be seated. Once or twice
more she rose and implored him to let her go. Then she sat still,
in agony. She thought of this lost hour, this hour of mellow
sunlight beyond the trees, by the water of Kensington Gardens; and
of her lover waiting for her.

It was a cruel little scene, and Mr. Verinder felt the cruelty of
it. He knew that he was inflicting anguish; worse, much worse than
if he had really employed force. Throughout the dragging hour he
might have beaten her, thrown her down upon the floor, knelt on her
chest, and he would have hurt her less. He walked about the room
torturing and tortured; his thoughts on fire, and yet his heart
coldly aching.

Once she said words that sounded like an echo of another voice, but
in her pathetically pleading tones they stabbed Mr. Verinder with a
stiletto thrust.

“I’m not very happy, as it is, father. Please don’t make things
harder.”

“My dear girl,” Mr. Verinder groaned, “do you think I’m happy
either? Have I been unkind till now? Have I reproached you, even
now? How else can I act? I see you drifting”--and he clung to this
word--“drifting quite unconsciously to perils that you cannot
measure.”

She said no more, and she never changed her attitude in her chair
until Mr. Verinder, ostentatiously consulting his watch, said it
was time to dress for dinner. As he glanced at her it seemed to him
that her nose had grown sharp and thin beneath the veil; her eyes
were dry and hard, so that the face, instead of being like a young
girl’s, made him think of a haggard woman who has “knocked about”
and “been through a lot.”

She herself had thought all the while of the man who was waiting
for her, thinking, “He will give me another five minutes; now he
won’t wait any longer; now he has really abandoned hope.”

She had lost the hour with him. It was gone for ever; nothing could
bring it back. Out of her life they had taken it; this hour of love
they had stolen from her--the hour that should have had love in it;
and life is so pitifully short, holding, if you count them, so few
hours of any sort.

       *       *       *       *       *

That morning, quite early, Miss Verinder walked out of the house by
herself; and she did not return for three days.

During her absence Mr. and Mrs. Verinder took what seemed perhaps
an odd course, and yet it would have been difficult in the
circumstances to propose a better one. They wished to maintain
“appearances” as far as might be possible, to avoid premature
scandal, to keep the talk within the four walls of home; and also
they were in this predicament, that they did not really know if
Miss Verinder would come back next minute or never. They therefore
entered into a conspiracy with their servants, giving orders rather
than explanations, and instructing them to tell inquirers that
Miss Verinder was ill in bed upstairs--nothing serious, merely
indisposition, but bed advisable.

Mrs. Bell, of Queen’s Gate, worried them badly by her good-natured
solicitude. She was fond of Emmeline; and learning of the
indisposition, she came often, brought hot-house grapes, and begged
that if reading aloud was out of the question, she might at least
be permitted to sit by the bedside and hold the invalid’s hand.
Except by Mrs. Bell few inquiries were made.

It was just before dinner when Emmeline reappeared. Her mother and
father received her alone in the boudoir; directly she came in,
her father seized her by the wrist, and Mrs. Verinder sat down
on a “pouf” in the middle of the room. Mr. Verinder released his
daughter, almost casting her from him, and began walking to and
fro; while Mrs. Verinder, sitting in a huddled fashion, following
him with her eyes, so that her head moved from side to side exactly
as heads move when people are watching the flight of the ball at
a lawn-tennis match. Her hands were shaking, her watchful face
expressed great distress as well as fear and wonder. Emmeline
seemed calm and fearless.

“What’s the meaning of this?” said Mr. Verinder tragically, in
spite of the commonplace character of the question.

“I am sorry, father, for any trouble and anxiety I have caused--but
I couldn’t help it.”

“Couldn’t help it?”

“I mean, you were keeping me a prisoner. Well, I had to break my
prison.”

“Where have you been?”

Emmeline remained silent.

“Emmeline, why don’t you answer?” said her mother. “Can’t you see
what I’m suffering?”

“Leave her to me,” said Mr. Verinder. “You have been with that man?”

“Yes--if by that man you mean Mr. Dyke”; and Emmeline squared her
shoulders and looked her father full in the face.

“For--for these three days you have been living with him as if you
were his wife?”

“Yes.”

Mrs. Verinder uttered a suffocated cry, and it seemed for an
instant as if Mr. Verinder was about to hurl himself upon Emmeline
and fling her down at his feet; but then he turned his back on her,
walked to a window and opened the curtains as if in need of more
air.

“And you haven’t yet told us where,” said Mrs. Verinder, making
strange throat sounds as well as speaking.

“Liverpool,” said Emmeline quietly.

“Liverpool!” Mrs. Verinder repeated the word, and moaned. “You
went that distance--to Liverpool--without even a dressing-bag! No
things--not even a brush and comb!”

“I got things there.”

“Then where are they? You have come back without anything.”

“I left them.”

Mrs. Verinder uttered another cry. “So that you could return to
him!”

Then there came a tapping on the outer panels of the door.

“Come in,” shouted Mr. Verinder furiously.

It was the butler; and Mr. Verinder swore at him roundly. For the
first time in his life he swore at a servant, and with ladies
present.

“Damn you, you fool, what do you mean by knocking at the door. Why
did you do it?”

The butler said he thought they were talking business, and was loth
to disturb them. But he wished to know about the dinner.

To Mr. Verinder that tap had been symbolic; it seemed to imply the
end of keeping up pretences. It was this thought that made him
swear.

“Dinner! Yes, at once”; and he looked at his watch. “Eight-fifteen!”

They sat down to dinner and Emmeline joined them. Sherry was poured
out for Mr. Verinder to drink with his soup; he could smell, before
it came in, the shrimp sauce that was to go with the turbot; there
was general conversation--about the weather and politics, just as
usual.

What had happened had happened; yet there they were. In appearance
at least, the world was going round at the same pace. The Albert
Hall still stood on the old site.

During the course of the evening Emmeline told them that it would
be wiser for them to let her go away altogether; and she was
unshaken by the storm that both parents launched. She said she was
very sorry; she knew they must hate her now; it would be better for
everybody if they parted. What amazed them most was her courage. It
was as though she drew all this new strength and character from the
man. In their distress and confusion they told her so.

“I don’t recognize you”; “You are changed”; “I simply do not
recognize you”; and so on.



CHAPTER VI


Throughout the month of August, while drawn blinds in all the
handsome windows of Prince’s Gate announced that Kensington was
at the seaside or on the continent, Miss Verinder enjoyed the
absolute freedom of a sitting-room and a bedroom at the Langham
Hotel. Mr. Dyke did not lodge in Portland Place, and the hotel
porters scarcely knew him by sight. He and his Emmie were never
seen together at the west-end of the town. If he appeared anywhere
in public he was alone. Although Emmie might not be very far off,
she never disclosed herself. She retired into the modest ill-lit
background--as on the occasion of his lecture at the hall in
Wigmore Street, where she sat in her dim corner shooting arrows of
love from misty eyes as she watched him step upon the platform,
and trembling with pride and joy as she listened to what the noble
chairman said about him. He belonged to her, “this wonderful
explorer, this man of resource as limitless as his courage, this
man who, alone and unaided, has gone into the dark places of the
world, tearing the veil from nature’s face and making foot-paths
through the unknown,”--he belonged to her, but fate had ordained
that she must possess her property in secret and not openly claim
it as her very own. He too understood that the wide public need
not be told everything, and he showed a delicate reserve in spite
of his passion. As was said by one of the very few people who
knew anything about them: on the whole they were decent in their
indecency.

To use a phrase much favoured and commonly used at this epoch,
life had become a fairy tale to Miss Verinder. It seemed to her
that the first sight of Anthony Dyke had awakened her from a sleep
of death; that then he had breathed fire into her, and that now
he was filling her with purpose and power. He was moreover the
key to all enigmas and the magical expounder of the commonplace.
Nothing tired her, nothing bored her; everything, however drab and
cold till now, had light and warmth and colour in it. Also nearly
everything was new. She rode with him in hansom cabs, was hugged by
him in delightful smoky compartments of the underground railway,
spent whole days with him on the eastern side of the Mansion House;
seeing in flashes the Monument, the Tower and the new Bridge, the
Commercial Road, the docks--the places she had heard about but
never seen before. These, with glimpses of the river, the rattle of
the city traffic, the roar of trains rolling through iron bridges
above crowded streets, made a new forceful world for her after the
dignified repose of her old universe.

All this while he was making preparations for his departure,
which could not be delayed after the middle of September, and his
business in the city and beyond the city concerned the ship that
was to take him to South America and the cargo it would carry.
She felt elation, pride, and overwhelming interest as she trotted
by his side, or a little behind him; dodging through the thronged
streets, dashing down dark little courts, and in and out of such
queer offices, where among dust and gloom one seemed to smell sea
breezes and have visions of distance and adventure. He walked so
fast that she was always out of breath, but even this discomfort
was pleasant since it came from him; she felt that romance and
poetry were making her breathless, and not merely muscular
effort. He left her sitting in outer rooms, and if the truth must
be told, he sometimes forgot her, so absorbed did he become in
the negotiations he was conducting. Once, after waiting for an
incredible time, she looked down through a dirt-stained window into
a narrow street near Tower Hill and saw him going away engrossed
and gesticulating with two other men; and her heart almost ceased
to beat as she thought it would be like this when he went from her
for ever. He came back exultant, apologetic, her lover again now
that the business had been completed, and swept her away with him
for a belated three o’clock luncheon, a ravenously hungry meal in a
strange tavern--the first of those queer repasts in queer places of
which destiny decreed she was to eat so many. He drank her health,
he touched her hand beneath the table, he looked sudden death at
inoffensive strangers that he suspected of glancing at her with an
admiration too patent to be respectful; he praised and thanked her
for granting him her companionship and counsel, for giving him--as
he said without the slightest intention of flippancy--her “moral
support.”

His praise was music to her, sweet as the singing of birds, grand
and voluminous as a cathedral organ; but she reproved him for the
murder glare at those always well-meaning and now terrified young
men.

“Because you like me,” she said, smiling at him, “you mustn’t fall
into the mistake of supposing that other people see me with your
eyes. Except you, no one has ever thought me worth looking at--or
in any way out of the ordinary.”

“Emmie, why do you say that?” He stared at her in surprise, and his
face grew troubled. “It’s not like you--not worthy. You should be
above all that. You must know quite well”--and he said this softly
but very firmly, with a kind of grateful solemn reverence--“that
you are the most beautiful thing God ever created.”

“Oh, no,” she said, with one of her swift blushes, and in a voice
of frightened confusion. “That’s utterly absurd--even for _you_ to
think. But, dear Tony, I am quite content if, as I say, in your
eyes--”

“In _all_ eyes,” he said loudly and almost angrily, administering
a sharp slap to the table with his open hand. “Why pretend--why
try to spoil my rapture? Emmie, my dearest, don’t do it. My lovely
priceless girl, it--it hurts me”; and there was real pain in his
tone.

She vowed both to herself and to him that she would not do it
again. His illusion was ecstasy to her. Why should she try to
shatter it in the name of dull stupid truth? Rather pray to heaven
that he might continue thus divinely deluded.

Miss Verinder, then, was happy as well as entranced. She averted
her gaze from the cloud represented by that ominous date of
September Fifteen. She refused to look at it in her diary at the
hotel or to notice its advancing shadow out of doors. Four more
weeks, three more weeks--and then the end. She would not think
of it, she could not think of it. Does the busy little gnat as
it moves with a whir of tiny wings in the sunlight brood on the
ephemeral nature of its joy or feel premonitions of the darkness
and the frost which will close its brief day?

She knew that his plans were finally settled--cut-and-dried, as he
said himself--and that nothing would change them. He was going to
the Argentine Republic with a cargo in which, as she soon learned,
he owned the largest share; he hoped that this venture might prove
exceedingly profitable; and, immediately on its completion, he
intended to make some mysterious kind of excursion to his old
friends, the Andes--“a picnic,” as he described it; “a little trip
on spec”; “just a lark.” Then, after this, he would be off to
Australia and its deserts again. One of those governments wanted
him. Then, when he had finished the governmental job, he would turn
once more to big work--the noble work that, as he had hinted to Mr.
Verinder, requires solid cash behind it.

Speaking of the preliminary commercial venture, he touched on this
point.

“Emmie, my grave little judge, you mustn’t think me sordid and
grasping when I chatter about pots and pans, and gas about fleecing
the honest Argentinos. If I’m keen--and I am desperately keen--to
get money, it isn’t for myself--it’s for what I feel my life-work”;
and he laughed gaily. “Look here, old lady, you can’t make an
omelette without breaking eggs. I’d stick at nothing to put myself
in funds. The end justifies the means.” And he laughed again.
“Don’t look frightened, you innocent angel. All I wish to imply is
this: If Dyke is desired to find the South Pole on one of these
long evenings--as Dyke intends to do, mark you, Emmeline of the
dusky locks--well, he must have a bob or two in the bank.”

Immediately Miss Verinder offered him her own money, all of it,
or as much of it as he felt he could make use of; but he told her
that acceptance was quite impossible. He could never take a penny
of her. Besides, as he explained, it was a duty of the public to
support him, and he proposed to make them fulfil their duty. “If
our little gamble turns up trumps, it may keep me going for two
or three years. But the public must put up the stuff for the big
thing. Emmie dear, I confess it’s a matter of pride with me. Dyke
has done enough already to establish his title to public support.
Why shouldn’t they back Dyke--as well as the other fellows? Ah,
here we are. I shan’t keep you ten minutes here.”

They had been hurrying down a lane not far from Liverpool Street
Station. Taking her by the elbow, he guided her through the doorway
of a warehouse and up a narrow flight of stairs. The warehouse
belonged to a Birmingham firm of gunmakers; and soon she was
following Dyke and his business friends down more and more stairs,
till she found herself in a cellar deep below the level of the
roadway, where a shooting-gallery, perhaps twenty-five yards long,
had been contrived for testing fire-arms. Dyke, very gay and
jovial, chaffing black-coated managers or partners and slapping on
the back a stout workman in an apron, selected from hundreds of
rifles about a dozen, and took up position at the opening of the
gallery. An assistant with black hands and oil-stained face began
to load the weapons, and the man in the apron handed them one after
another to Dyke. The whole cellar was well lit with electric light,
which its whitewashed walls reflected harshly. One saw the vaulted
entrance in front of Dyke, and a white target against a brown bank
at the far-end.

“How much earth have you got there behind the disc?”

“Three feet--quite three feet.”

“All right”; and Dyke loosed off.

The noise was appalling. In that confined space each discharge
made a crash and roar as of a thunder-storm; the walls seemed to
be shaking as well as echoing; one felt that the building overhead
must fall and one would be buried alive. They were repeating
rifles--clumsy and poor machines if compared with the magazine
rifle of to-day; but Dyke fired them so rapidly that he might have
been working a mitrailleuse. Miss Verinder felt that the top of her
head had gone, that the drums of her ears had split, that she was
suffocating by the sulphurous fumes of the exploded powder; but all
the while she was proudly watching, proudly admiring him.

He was a younger Anthony now, the shooter of big game, out in
Africa; bringing his gun to his shoulder in one motion so swift
that it was there before you saw it begin to come up; standing
firmly planted on his legs, with his hat on the back of his head,
his eye intent, blazing away under conditions where a miss means
death.

“There. Thank you”; and handing back his smoking rifle, he began
very carefully to examine each one that he had fired.

“Well,” said the stout assistant, with a complaisant grin, “I
never see anything like it. You don’t fiddle about--you don’t
shilly-shally, sir. No, my word, you don’t.”

Dyke gave him another slap on the back, laughed, and spoke in the
frank exulting tone of a schoolboy who brags so simply that what
he says does not sound vain-glorious. “I was taught to be nippy,
old chap, by shooting at elephants on the charge. I never had any
lessons at the rifle-butts--with a marker and a flag. But I was
hurrying now because I have another appointment”; and he turned to
one of the gentlemen in black coats. “Yes, they’re all right. Yes,
I pass that lot. Two hundred and fifty, aren’t they? Come along.”

“That was a very noisy performance,” said Emmeline, when they were
out in the street again.

“Was it?” he said carelessly. “I suppose it was. I say, I’m behind
time. We must leg it, darling.”

He did not apologize for having nearly deafened her; it never
occurred to him that anybody could be upset by the pleasantly
familiar racket of fire-arms. Nor did he ever notice that he walked
much too fast for her--although he bowed like a Spanish hidalgo as
he stood aside for her to pass through chop-house doors, handed her
into hansom cabs as if she were a princess, and often looked at
her across soiled tablecloths with the eyes of a mediæval knight
kneeling before the shrine of his patron saint. And perhaps Miss
Verinder’s most exquisite bliss lay in her recognition of the fact
that, beyond thinking her the loveliest of created things, beyond
thinking her his counsellor and moral supporter, he instinctively
regarded her as a comrade and a pal. Merely for dashing about the
city, there was not a man in the world--and, scattered about the
earth, there were, as she knew, many men for whom he had a great
tenderness--there was not one that he would have preferred as
companion to his staunchly trotting breathless little Emmie.

One day she met the captain of the ship on which Dyke was to sail,
and the three of them had a delightful intimate luncheon in a
remarkable eating-house with low beamed ceilings, panelled walls,
and partitions surrounding each of the tables--a place, it was
said, exactly the same as it had been in the time of Mr. Pickwick
and little changed since the time of Dr. Johnson. It was hot, full
of loud voices and oppressive kitchen smells; but Miss Verinder ate
with appetite, being astonished to discover the charm afforded by
grilled steak, tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce, when you happen
to be very hungry as well as very much in love. She liked Captain
Cairns, a short but enormously strong man of fifty, with grizzled
beard, and face and hands the colour of the woodwork that perhaps
had seen Dr. Johnson and faithful Boswell. Captain Cairns inspired
confidence; her Anthony would be safe with him. She was pleased,
moreover, to observe his profound regard and admiration, when he
spoke of Dyke’s famous deeds.

“One of my oldest and loyalest friends,” Dyke himself had said of
him.

“Oh, Miss Verinder,” said the captain, “it does make me that
angry when folks cast doubt on his discoveries. Pack o’ silly
stay-at-home fools. I saw a bit in the newspaper the other day
actually sneering at what he’d seen with his own eyes--those
pigmies at Patagonia, Tony--you know--and the remnants of them
temples in the Andes. Has he ever said what isn’t true? Oh, it
makes me fair mad, when they go on like that--in print, too”; and
Captain Cairns grew warm in his genuine disgust and indignation.
“Not fit to clean his boots, they aren’t.”

Miss Verinder said that the incredulity of Mr. Dyke’s critics had
made her very angry also.

“What does it matter?” said Dyke grandly. “Wasn’t Columbus doubted?
We’re prepared for that sort of thing. It all comes right--we get
our due at long last. Calumny and suspicion, perhaps, as long as
we’re alive, but a piece of sculpture and a brass plate, a tomb in
St. Paul’s or the Abbey, when the last cruise is done.”

“Oh, don’t speak like that”; and Miss Verinder shivered.

The industrious city clerks did not linger over their meal; the
room grew nearly empty; but Dyke and the captain sat smoking cigars
and talking of the cargo. She listened with unabated interest and
puffed at a cigarette--one of the queer Spanish cigarettes given to
her by Dyke. To smoke was a new accomplishment, and she was not yet
very good at it, coughing occasionally, and blowing out when she
meant to suck in. But she gloried in it, because it seemed to bring
her closer still to him.

Captain Cairns, it appeared, had himself a share in the cargo;
and it appeared further that a small portion of the cargo was for
Uruguay and not for the Argentine. This consisted of bicycles and
bicycle parts.

Miss Verinder, deeply interested, asked if the fashionable craze
for bicycling had really reached that distant land. She said she
was amused by the thought of a fashion spreading so swiftly.

“Captain Cairns was amused too.” He laughed until he rolled about
on his bench.

“Yes, miss,” he spluttered, “no mistake about it. Them Uruguayans
want bicycles--mad for ’em--ready to give any money for ’em.”

“Then what a splendid idea--how clever to have thought of bicycles.”

“Yes, yes,” said the captain, still laughing immoderately. “_His_
idea. It was you, Tony, as thought of it first. Yes--bicycles.
Why, bless me, Miss Verinder, the Uruguayans will be bang in the
fashion--like so many monkeys on wheels.” Then he slowly recovered
composure. “You set me off, miss. Forgive me. I’m one who will have
his joke.”

It was a little difficult to understand of what this particular
joke consisted and she saw that her sweetheart, although he had
smiled to begin with, now seemed troubled if not annoyed by the
captain’s sense of humour. For a moment he looked contritely at
his Emmie, as though about to apologize for something or explain
something. But then he seemed to change his mind, and he soon broke
up the little party and took her away.

They walked westward along Cheapside and Newgate Street, and on to
Holborn Viaduct; and, as always, their progress was enlivened by
occurrences, incidents, excitements, emotions. Whether starting
from Cape Horn or the Bank of England, he could not take a walk
without things happening. At the corner of a side street a young
woman selling flowers offered him roses. He bought a bunch for his
companion, gave the woman half-a-crown, and told her to keep the
change. The woman, overwhelmed by this largesse, huskily asked
heaven to bless him, and then burst into tears saying she had been
there since seven in the morning and those were the very first
flowers she had sold. Dyke, almost weeping himself, implored her to
be calm, made her tell more of her circumstances, gave her a couple
of sovereigns with some loose silver, and took off his hat in the
most respectfully courteous of farewells.

As he walked on--very slowly for him--he spoke with sadness of the
cruelly hard fate of many women at great centres of civilization,
like this enormous labyrinth of London--women, who ought to be
cared for and loved in the shelter of happy homes, out in the open
street, snatching a doubtful livelihood from the caprices of the
crowd. He said it broke his heart when he thought about it.

Soon ceasing to think about it, he talked of those detractors of
his--the people who, like Mr. Verinder and fellow members at the
club, spoke of “travellers’ tales,” “Baron Munchausen,” and so on.

“It’s all true, Emmie dear; every word that I have ever uttered or
put down on paper. What dolts! Because they read at school that
Patagonians are a large race of men, if you tell them of an older
smaller race not quite extinct--And those temples, too! Huge masses
of masonry welded to the cliffs and rocks”; and he waved his hand
above his head, as if to indicate the vastness and grandeur of
these sacred remains. “Well, I couldn’t bring them away with me,
could I? I couldn’t prove their existence by carting them home to
the Geographical Society in Saville Row. No, believe me, the Andes
still holds marvellous secrets. Yes,” he added triumphantly. “One
little secret I have here, in my pocket,” and he tapped his chest.
Then he stopped suddenly. “By the way, we’ve done our work. Why
shouldn’t I go there now?” And he smiled at her fondly while he
brought out a notebook. “I spoke of the labyrinth of London. But
you, as a born Londoner, ought to know your way about. Where’s
Hatton Garden?”

Miss Verinder had to confess that she did not know.

“There’s a merchant there I want to see.” After consulting his
notebook, he hailed a hansom cab, with the usual ceremony handed
her into it, and followed her.

“Hatton Garden,” he called to the driver, and gave the number of
the house he wished to visit.

“Hatton Garden! Did you say Hatton Garden?” asked the driver, in
surprised tones, through the roof trap.

“Yes. Drive on,” said Dyke authoritatively.

The man drove on for perhaps fifty yards, and then pulled up his
horse.

“Drive on,” said Dyke, again, opening the trap-door. “What have you
stopped for?”

“You’ve arrived,” said the man.

“Is this Hatton Garden?” shouted Dyke, as he sprang out of the cab.

The man said yes, and Dyke exploded with terrible force.

“Then, you infernal scoundrel, what do you mean by luring me into
your cab and defrauding me of a fare when I was in Hatton Garden
already and I had only a few steps to walk?”

“You _wasn’t_ in Hatton Garden,” said the man. “You was facing it.
I did ask you and you yelled I was to get on. I thought you knew.”

“No, you didn’t. You thought I was a stranger--you thought, because
I didn’t know all the twists and turns of your senseless town you’d
fleece me and make a fool of me--” And continuing the explosion,
increasing it even, he said he would not pay the fare, not one
penny of it, and he had a great mind to pull the driver off his
seat and break every bone in his body.

Miss Verinder begged that the man might be paid. Gasping
bystanders distressed her, the wrath of Dyke had thrown her into a
flutter. “For my sake, Tony, pay him and be done with it.”

“For your sake? But the principle of the thing, Emmie. Oh, very
well”; and he spoke now calmly and grandly to the cab-driver.
“Because this lady wishes it, because this lady has interceded for
you, you shall have your shilling. You shall have your--” He was
feeling in his trousers pockets. But there was nothing there. He
had given all his money to the flower-seller.

Miss Verinder opened her purse, and paid the cab-driver--a little
more than his exact fare, in order to remove a perhaps unfavourable
impression. Of course the cabdriver could not be expected to
understand Anthony’s noble but explosive nature as she did.

“Thank you, dear,” she said, linking her arm in that of her hero
and giving it an affectionate pressure. “Please dismiss all that
from your mind--for my sake.”

Thus, arm in arm, they crossed the threshold of “Cunlip and
Company, dealers in precious stones.”

Dyke in a moment was smiling, like a child who in the midst of
fearful tantrums is soothed by a magic word from the lips of
governess or nursemaid.

“Now this will be fun,” he said, beaming at her. “You listen to
everything that he says. Where’s Mr. Cunlip? I want to see him at
once, if he can make it convenient.”

Mr. Cunlip, a small, dark, old man, received them in a dingy office
behind his show-rooms on the ground floor. He seemed a little taken
aback by Dyke’s breezy self-introduction and cordial greetings.

“Well, here I am at last--Dyke--Anthony Dyke, you know. That
doesn’t impress you, eh?” And Mr. Dyke laughed good-humouredly.
“Well, I’ll give you a name that will mean something to you. Pedro
del Sarto! Ever heard of Pedro del Sarto? Of Buenos Ayres, you
know.”

But, to Dyke’s slight discomfiture, the name aroused no immediate
memories in Mr. Cunlip. It became necessary to give further
details--such as that old Pedro was a tip-topper, a white man, one
of Dyke’s best friends, that he had been over here in 1880 and had
done business with Mr. Cunlip.

Then the dealer in precious stones at last remembered. “Oh, yes,
to be sure. But I see so many gentlemen from Argentina. A Spanish
gentleman, wasn’t he? Headquarters at Buenos Ayres, but connected
with those gold mines at Cape Horn? Yes, I’ve placed him now. I
hadn’t much business with him. I passed him on to the assay people
over the road.”

“_That’s_ the man,” said Dyke, beaming. “Well, you’ll recollect now
that he wrote to you two years ago to say I’d call on you at the
first opportunity.”

“Two years ago! First opportunity, what!”

“This _is_ the first opportunity. I have been occupied in other
parts of the world,” said Dyke, with a very modest air.

Mr. Cunlip then wished to know how he could avail himself of the
opportunity, now that it had come, by being of service to Mr. Dyke.

“Something to show you,” said Dyke modestly.

He had brought from his waistcoat pocket a small envelope; he
opened this, extracted a tiny packet of tissue paper, and after
unfolding the paper, rolled out upon the top of a glass case what
looked like five or six greenish pebbles, each about the size of a
pea. Then he spoke in a tone that had changed from extreme modesty
to almost aggressive triumph.

“What do you call those?”

Mr. Cunlip put a magnifying glass in his eye, and examined a stone
carefully before he answered.

“I call this one an emerald. What do _you_ call it?”

“I call it the same,” said Dyke jovially. “And the others too.
Emeralds, my dear Cunlip--and beauties, eh? The real article.”

“Do you want me to weigh ’em up and name a price?” asked Mr. Cunlip.

“No. That’ll come later. What I want now is just your
opinion--expert advice. Suppose--I say suppose, later on, I began
to dribble them across to you! How many could you do with like
that?”

“Why, as many as you could send. May I ask where they come from?”

“No, you mustn’t ask that--not just at present. I know where I got
them, and Pedro del Sarto knows--and we’re the only two men alive
who do know. But we think there’s more there in the same place--and
I’m soon going to have a look.”

Then Mr. Cunlip spoke rather disparagingly of the specimens before
him; he had his doubts as to colour; they were not very big
either; he said that to judge actual merits before cutting was
almost impossible, even to the greatest expert in the trade--and
he delicately implied that between that gifted person and himself
there was little if any difference. But, urged to do so, he gave a
rough estimate of the value of a particular stone, if after cutting
it proved as good as it looked now.

“Splendid! As much as that? Then I may take it that emeralds are
keeping up their price, and it isn’t likely to drop?”

“Their price _can’t_ drop--so far as I can see.”

“They’re as fashionable as ever?”

“They’re just as fashionable as they were in the time of the Incas.”

“Ah. Glorious?” Dyke gave an exultant laugh. “The Incas! _Rem acu
tetigisti._”

“I beg your pardon--what’s that?”

“Nothing,” said Dyke gaily. “I liked your way of putting it. The
Incas! They covered themselves with emeralds, didn’t they? Very
apt--your historical allusion. Emmie, did you hear what Mr. Cunlip
said?”

While he spoke he was packing up his specimens in their tissue
paper. He put the envelope in his waistcoat pocket, and, with
compliments to Mr. Cunlip, he hurried away.

“Let’s walk, Emmie. No more cabs. Besides, all this has excited me.
The days of the Incas! Ha, ha.”

And as they walked on, through Holborn and New Oxford Street, he
told her the story of how he had found those emeralds quite by
chance, high up in the mountains. As he sat resting in the fierce
sunshine, he had seen one of them on the edge of a small basin of
sand among black rocks, and had scratched for the others with his
hands. He described the place--oh, yes, he could find his way back
all right; he had mapped it very carefully, and given the corrected
map to his partner, Pedro del Sarto. But he himself needed no maps;
he could take you there blindfolded--a valley narrowing to and shut
in by a perpendicular cliff a thousand feet high, down the face
of which the melted snow had made deep channels--a valley where
no white man had ever stood, where perhaps no man of any colour
had even been since the Spanish Conquest four hundred years ago,
till he, Dyke, came to tear the secret out of its lonely heart and
profit by the discovery.

As she listened, she fancied that she could see it all in
imagination. People on the crowded pavements jostled them, they
passed close to the noses of van horses in crossing the Tottenham
Court Road, and they noticed nothing of these surrounding sights,
sounds, or pressures. They were both of them thousands of miles
away.

The time of the Incas! Yes, he honestly believed that he had
stumbled upon the trace of workings of emerald mines that were
in use before the advent of the Spaniard. He might prove wrong,
of course. He had been in a hurry, with no time for close
investigations. Perhaps what he fancied had been wrought by human
beings labouring was really made by nature using such of her tools
as lay handy--storm, frost, sunshine, and the upheaving forces that
had built the whole mountain backbone of the continent. In any
case, the real point was--How many emeralds had man or nature left
there?

At any rate, Dyke would go now and see for himself. It would be a
lark. Let us leave it at that.

“Not a word to anybody, Emmie. You and I and old Pedro. No one
else--till the day when I give my queen a tiara of green stones
all as big as filberts, with a few Brazilian diamonds to flash
among the greenness. Then when you go to the Opera--on one of
the grand nights--you lovely Emmie, like a high priestess of the
sun--then--But I say, let’s have tea. That is, if you don’t mind
paying for it”; and, laughing, he grasped her elbow and led her
into a crowded tea-shop.

They sat there, on a seat against the wall, at the end of a table
that was occupied by other people; and Dyke while waiting for their
tea and while eating two crumbly currant scones, continued to talk
to her, but in a voice so low that no one else could hear. His eyes
flashed sometimes, he raised his head and shook his hair; he was
talking enthusiastically, with a freedom that he could only use to
her, and in the midst of it quite automatically he pushed his cup
across the marble table for more tea and picked up and began to eat
another cake.

“You don’t know me yet. Above all, you don’t understand the
impetus--the added drive--that your love has given to me. Listen. I
can’t say it too often. You have lifted me up--you have placed me
on high--you have _saved_ me. For your sake--oh, how I worship you
when you say those words--for your sake, Emmie, I must and I shall
keep on the summits of endeavour--and never yield to the powers
of darkness or the cowardice of shameful compromises. I’m all out
now--to the last ounce--for my good angel’s sake. Yes, two lumps,
please. These buns are stale.”

He went on, in his vibrating heart-stirring whisper, to speak of
the South Pole. She had divined--as it seemed, long ago--that this
was his ultimate goal, the glorious hope of his life’s work. Dyke
meant, had always meant, to capture the South Pole, and all other
tasks were but a filling or wasting of time. He had marked it
down as his own. He spoke of it as if it had been some dangerous
yet timid animal of the chase, round which he had made narrowing
circles till it crouched fascinated, unable any more to flee from
its pursuer; it knew that it could not escape and that when Dyke
ceased to circle and dashed in, it must fall into his hands.

“Remember, Emmie, I’m not all talk; I’m do as well. Yes, Dyke will
do things”; and his blue eyes flashed at her, and the colour came
to those high cheek-bones as if the tea was beginning not only to
cheer but to intoxicate. “If they won’t support me--if they won’t
fit me out in the style I ask for--if they won’t give me the ship I
want--Then in a sieve I’ll thither sail, and like a rat without a
tail, I’ll do, I’ll do, I’ll do. No, you don’t know me yet, Emmie.
You don’t know me yet.”

But already how well she knew him! Better perhaps than he knew
himself. She knew that behind all the courage which for so long
had made him hold his life at a pin’s fee; behind the insatiable
curiosity, the love of adventure, the fiery challenge to the
universe that form the very substance of a true explorer’s mental
constitution;--behind all that there was the unslumbering desire
for personal fame. If only by his little individual trick of
speaking of himself in the third person--“That’s not good enough
for Dyke”; “Anthony Dyke has other plans”; and so on--she would
have known so much as this. Habitually, during all those enforced
silences that had made up his active career, he had listened to
the imagined voices of the world thinking about him; and now he
could not think of himself in relation to fame without, as it were,
standing for a moment outside himself. Dyke wanted the South Pole;
but Dyke wanted the undying fame of getting it. Why not? The
labourer is worthy of his hire. She felt that she need not class
his ambition--the last infirmity of noble minds--as even one slight
defect of his innumerable glorious qualities.

Nevertheless, she thought sagely that it was the thing she must
always reckon with--the factor never to be omitted from her
calculations when making plans for his assistance, moral or immoral.

She knew him--he need not fear her lack of knowledge. She knew that
he was noble to the core; simple only as everything fine and great
will always be; at his own trade as resourceful as Pizarro, in all
other things as grand a gentleman as Cortes; gentle with women,
splendid with men--familiar, as people who live their whole lives
in Kensington cannot be, calling sea-captains old boy, slapping
underlings on the back, and yet being a leader and a chieftain all
the while. Yes--even when exploding under a misapprehension with
cab-drivers.

Before paying the bill for tea, she picked up the bunch of roses
that he had bought from the beggar. She attached exactly the same
value to it as if it had been that tiara of emeralds. It had been
given to her by him. And with deep penetrating joy she remembered
how he had called her his queen, wishing for an instant perhaps
that she was really and truly some splendid historical queen or
empress. But, no, even then she would have been just as unworthy of
such a lover.



CHAPTER VII


The last days had come. They were staying at Liverpool at the North
Western Hotel: and Dyke, although as sweet to her as ever, was
preoccupied with final business. He hurried to and fro about this
new strange city unaccompanied by her now, talked in her presence
of such abstruse matters as the charter-party, bills of lading,
the ship’s clearance papers, and had no time to teach her what
it all meant. In some mysterious manner the agent of the owners
of the ship had “got upon his nerves,” as he said; but he was
long-suffering and indulgent towards this gentleman, permitting
himself no explosions; even asking him to dine at the hotel with
Captain Cairns, the first mate, and other men. They had a round
table in a corner of the big room, drank a great deal of champagne,
and talked rather too loudly for the comfort of their neighbours.

Miss Verinder’s table was at a distance, right on the other side of
the room, where she sat quite alone and ate her dinner with little
appetite. Dyke came over to her once, bowed to her, and stood by
the table; outwardly just a friend or an hotel acquaintance, a
person upon whom she had no claims of any kind. But he looked down
at her with eloquent eyes, and whisperingly told her how terrible
it was to be separated from her for one of their last three
evenings.

She understood. He was constant and loyal as ever; the only change
in him was what every woman must fatally see in the man she loves
when he begins to take up again a man’s job. She understood--only
it made her heart ache; and while telling the waiter that she did
not require any more of the dinner but would like a cup of coffee,
she thought of the essential force of those two hackneyed and
inexact words. A heartache! Of course her heart was not really
aching, and yet it _felt_ like that; the pain was mental, yet it
seemed physical--this dull oppressive discomfort that had taken the
taste away from the food, the colour from surrounding objects, the
brilliancy from the electric light, suggested something primitive
and instinctive that might be shared by dumb animals quite low down
the scale; say the young sheep driven into a different gate from
that through which its companion passed as they both approached the
shambles; or, at highest, the sensations of a dog when it loses its
master.

Separation. Anthony’s own word echoed itself as she sipped her
coffee and glanced across the room to the corner where he was being
jolly with an unexplained purpose to that agent of the shipowners.
She was losing him by inches; every moment those men, that ship,
the breezes of the wide estuary, the trackless ocean, and the call
of plains and hills that she had never seen were taking him bit
by bit even while he was still here. It was not like the end of a
dance; or the falling of a curtain at the end of a play, or the
blowing out of candles when the feast is over; it was like night
slowly creeping into a lampless room, where you have to sit and
wait, watching the walls fade and the window frames grow fainter,
until it is quite dark. Her world would be such a room to her when
the slow separation had been completed and she was finally alone.

Her brain and not her heart ached now, as for a few moments she
allowed herself to think of what separation would really mean to
her. Her eyes smarted, her throat grew hot, her head was full
of the dully throbbing anguish. She could scarcely breathe.
Then she drove thought away again, beating it from her with the
verbal weapons she had prepared against this emergency; saying to
herself, “It is wrong of me. I must not be selfish. I must look at
everything from his point of view. I know very well that if it were
in my power to keep him, I would urge him to go.”

And beneath the words and the thoughts and the pain, she had
now the sense of unreality or impossibility. They could not be
separated in this manner. Some chance would intervene; by no
action of her own but by some eleventh hour leniency of fate, the
consummation of the catastrophe would be prevented or at least
retarded; nature itself would recoil from adding this one more to
its tale of endless cruelties. It was with Miss Verinder, finishing
her coffee, as with children when they think of death, believing
that death is something that will certainly happen, and yet, owing
to some failure of the thought-machine at their disposal, being
unable to believe in its possibility.

It could not be that if on the fourth night from now she entered
this great dining-hall, she would find apparently the same crowd
of travellers, the swing-doors opening and shutting, the waiters
going round asking people whether they wanted any liqueur with
their coffee--and yet no Anthony Dyke to be seen or heard anywhere.
It could not be that she should creep back to London, a broken
useless thing wanted by nobody, and that her lover would have gone
from her for years if not for ever. It _must_ be impossible that
so strong, so overwhelmingly real a thing as he, should fade out
of her life and take his place among such weak impalpable things
as ghosts or dreams or haunting memories; that he for whom she had
forsaken and renounced her home, her parents, her friends, every
precept of education, every habit of the mind, should become again
scarcely more to her than he had been three months ago--a name in a
newspaper.

She went out of the room, and a party of travellers at the
nearest table to hers thought her a good-looking but hard sort
of young woman--too proud and defiantly British for their
taste--and, considering her youthfulness, too self-possessed and
self-satisfied. Did you hear how she spoke to the waiter? “No, no
liqueur, thank you.” Just like that--so off-hand.

Miss Verinder had the same air of hardness and resolution, together
with a new and metallic form of gaiety, next morning when Dyke took
her with him to visit the ship. The _Mercedaria_--a steamer of
about three thousand tons--had come out into the river now, and she
lay moored in the bright but soft sunlight towards the Birkenhead
shore. With her one tall funnel and two raking masts, she looked,
not only small, but a battered and rather disreputable kind of
tramp, when compared with the lofty shining mass of a big liner a
little higher up the river. But she loomed up high and solid, as
their boat passed under her stern.

Dyke took the honoured visitor here and there about the vessel,
showing her first the saloon, and what they pompously called the
state rooms. This accommodation, although originally planned for
a few passengers as well as the ship’s officers, seemed to Miss
Verinder’s untutored eye appallingly inadequate and restricted
for so long a voyage. The state rooms were but dark and stuffy
cupboards, with a bunk in each. A rough partition of woodwork,
left plain and unvarnished, had been erected athwartship at the
back of the saloon, which itself was a dull malodorous den, with
a table surrounded by seven permanently fixed swivel chairs. A
large oil lamp hung beneath a skylight above the table, and really,
this was all of furniture or decoration. It was a relief to emerge
on the upper deck, and feel again the air and warmth. Here Dyke
showed her the chart-room--quite a comfortable retreat--immediately
below the bridge, with leather cushions to its benches and printed
certificates in frames against the wall.

An unshaved but smiling steward or cook followed them up, to say
that by the orders of Captain Cairns he had put out a bottle of
champagne and some biscuits down below, for the lady. Captain
Cairns himself, immensely improved in appearance now that he was
wearing uniform, welcomed her very courteously, and said he only
wished that she was going with them across the sea. He was busy,
Captain Cairns, making these kindly civilities brief and to the
point, and then at once resuming his task. There were lighters
alongside, and the last of the cargo was being hoisted on board by
the noisy rattling steam winches.

On this pleasant sunny morning the very air seemed full of bustling
activity; the whole stream was alive with traffic; crowded steam
ferry-boats shot diagonally across it, and made their practised
curves, as they glided to the huge landing-stages. Tugs whistling
insistently went up and down, together with strings of barges;
and farther off, one saw the long forest of masts that told of
unceasing trade. It was as though everybody was hurrying to get
away, and the great city itself, seen from here with diminished
eminence and towers and domes brought together by the distance,
seemed to be sitting on the waters, calmly meditating in the midst
of a foolish tumult.

Miss Verinder stood near a boat that hung inboard on its davits,
with her gloved hand on the rail and her gauze scarf gently
stirring in the friendly breeze, while she talked and smiled,
gaily and cheerfully. This is the woman’s portion. One must not
say anything, or do anything, to bother one’s man or to lower his
spirits when he is taking up his own burden of care and anxiety.

She watched, with intelligent interest, the toil of the sailors and
the winches, as the wooden cases one after another came up from
the hidden barge, swung round, and disappeared in their proper
hold. This part of the cargo, as Dyke explained, was coming in
last because it would go out first. The sailors, he assured her,
although they certainly looked a shabby untrimmed gang, apparently
of all nationalities too, were a real good lot. Oh, yes, one could
trust old Cairns for that, and everything else.

With her heart aching rather worse than last night, Miss Verinder
laughed and showed most intelligent interest.

Some of the big cases had on them, marked roughly in black paint,
the words, “Bicycles” and “Bicycle accessories.” Oh, yes, of
course, this was that consignment of which Dyke had spoken. The
bicycles for the people of Uruguay, all bitten with the fashionable
craze--the bicycles, of which the mere notion had caused Mr.
Cairns to laugh so uproariously. Making conversation, she reminded
Dyke of the Captain’s humour.

But Dyke looked at her doubtfully. Indeed his whole face clouded
and he answered with a strange glumness. Then abruptly he took
her by the arm, drawing her across the deck to the corresponding
boat on the other side. There he told her firmly that he could not
allow the continuance of a deception, however trifling. He could
not leave her in the dark about anything in any way concerning him.
Between him and her there must not be a secret, even though the
secret was devoid of all importance. Well then, he had to confess,
or rather to inform her, that all these bicycles--and he looked
round to be sure that they were not overheard--those bicycles,
don’t you know, were not really bicycles. No, they were, in fact,
rifles, and so forth, technically known as small arms.

“But, Anthony,” said Miss Verinder, looking at him timidly but
intently, “isn’t that what you call gun-running?”

“Oh, no, I don’t call it that. I shouldn’t think of calling
it that, Emmie,” and he laughed. With a very uncharacteristic
confusion, even sheepishness, he answered her further questions. He
had released her arm, and he stood there really like a naughty boy
answering a governess. He could only try to laugh it off. He had no
excuses.

“But, Anthony, isn’t it dangerous?”

His eyes gave a flash, and sheepishness vanished.

“Oh, I know _that_ wouldn’t deter you, Tony. But, I mean, isn’t it
against the law?”

“Well, there’s no revolution in Uruguay--not at this minute,
anyhow. I don’t pretend to any blind respect for the law; but I
don’t see why the law should object. No,” and he laughed now with
unembarrassed cheerfulness. “If they don’t stop us here, they won’t
stop us out there. So don’t you worry, darling. If we get safe out
of the Mersey, I promise we’ll get safe into Rio Grande.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was their last day. After a misty morning there had been a
little rain, then the dark sky fought the sunlight, and now a
settled gloom lay on the town and the river, with presages of more
rain. Smoke was rolling languidly from the _Mercedaria’s_ ugly
yellow funnel. She was to sail before night. She was to sail in
five hours.

Miss Verinder wandered about her disconsolately, and talked to
Dyke from time to time. He was very busy. Down below Reynolds, the
steward or cook, was busy too; in his shirt sleeves, packing away
all kinds of light consumable stores in the narrow compartment
that was his whole realm. She gave money to Reynolds, begged him
to take care of Mr. Dyke as well as he could. Reynolds promised.
She sat for a long while alone on the bunk in Dyke’s cabin, staring
at trunks that were like old friends to her, trunks that had
been in his room at the hotel such a little while ago; and she
fingered many parcels all thrown down there on the bunk, the things
she had bought for him yesterday and the day before--comforts,
contrivances, and books. That small square parcel contained the
poems of Tennyson. He loved them--especially the _Idylls of the
King_. Both head and heart were aching so intolerably that she had
to clench her hands sometimes; and her breathing was affected. She
felt that she might suffocate if she did not have more air, and
yet she did not like to go up to the deck where Dyke and Cairns
were busy with some one in the chart-room. Down here, in this small
buried cabin, she had a feeling that the ship was enormous, a
monster of the deep now gathering energy, angrily shivering, like
the men on the upper deck panting to get to work.

Then she heard Dyke’s voice calling to her, and she went up with
him. He said that he had been looking for her everywhere. As she
came out into the daylight he noticed her whiteness, and saw that
sharpened, hardened aspect of the face that had once impressed
itself on the attention of her father. Her nose seemed much too
thin, her chin much too pointed and the almost colourless lips
were drawn inward by an ugly contraction; seeing her thus, no
sane person could have described her as a pretty girl, indeed it
would have been kind not to call her plain; but this marring of
her beauty, this swift disfigurement, for one who not only knew
the cause but was himself the cause stirred deeper wells of love
and made admiration more poignantly sincere. He took her twitching
fingers, and in a husky whisper muttered words of encouragement and
hope.

“It--it’s quite all right, Tony. I--I’ll not disgrace you.”

“You see, Emmie dear. The time will pass,” he mumbled. “Back soon
as I can.”

“Yes--I know. But not too soon--not--not till you’ve done your
work.”

For perhaps seventy seconds they stood holding hands, and looking
at each other.

“Anthony.”

“Oh, Emmie. It’s awful, isn’t it?”

Then some one shouted to him. Some one had just come up the side.

“You’ll let me stay to the last moment, won’t you?” she said, with
a spasmodic clutch of her fingers. “You won’t send me ashore, till
you need?”

“No, no,” he said, hurrying away.

It was now about three in the afternoon, and during the next hour
she had but flying sentences from him at long intervals. Worrying,
annoying things, as she gathered, occupied all his thoughts. Men
came and went. There were gusts of loud swearing in the chart-room
and confidential irritable exchanges as Captain Cairns appeared
and disappeared. Then there was talk of the pilot. Something was
very much on Anthony’s nerves, obviously; she learned from his
snatches of explanation that this concerned certain formalities
that should have been completed but were not--the ship’s papers not
yet absolutely in order, clearances still required, the port or
custom-house authorities rubbed the wrong way by sheer stupidness
and now becoming troublesome when there was no leisure to soothe
them? She did not know. She only knew that Anthony was angry, using
strong language and saying he would go and attend to it himself
since he could trust nobody else.

There was a second cause for annoyance. Four or five of the crew
were on shore instead of on board--five, perhaps six of Cairns’s
international mob absent, playing the fool, getting drunk, what
not, just as their services were urgently required. Cairns was as
angry as Dyke about this. The second mate must go off in a boat
at once and bring those men aboard dead or alive, with or without
their kit; and Dyke exploded, roaring threats--advising the captain
to put them in irons after breaking their bones. And then, with
more talk of another boat, a boat for Mr. Dyke; with more talk
about the pilot, the tide, those papers--then, after all this,
suddenly, Miss Verinder understood. The ship was going to sail
before its time. The ship was going to sail as soon as it possibly
could.

“Yes, my darling, yes. No, you can’t stay now. I’m going ashore
myself. I haven’t a minute to spare. Come along.”

As they were rowed away from the ship the other boat parted from
them, and Dyke shouted further menaces across the water. He was
worried, irritated, answering his Emmie’s questions automatically.
She sat bolt upright, rigid, so that her slim body jerked all in
one piece as the rowers plunged their oars faster and faster, but
she still showed a sympathetic intelligent interest. Replying to
her quite sensible inquiries, Dyke told her at which landing-place
the mate’s boat would lie waiting for those men; also that if the
mate failed to find the absentees he would return to the ship
without them. If Dyke could polish off his rather ticklish bit of
business, he intended that the ship should leave her moorings in
two hours.

“So it’s good-bye, Emmie”--they were close to the shore
now--“Good-bye, my best--my dearest--my only love.”

She did not reply, she could not reply. This manner of parting with
him was too bitter. It was too bitter.

He hurried her across the landing-stage and through the crowd on
the sloped bridge, put her into a cab, and told the driver to
take her to the hotel. One more squeeze of the hand, and he had
vanished. She could not see if he jumped into another cab himself
or crossed the wide roadway towards lofty buildings on the other
side. Anyhow he was about his business. It had begun to rain, a
gust of cold wind swept through the cab windows.

At the hotel, as she passed his room, the door stood open, and
she saw the chambermaid with brush and broom making its emptiness
neat and clean for another lodger. There was a litter of crumpled
newspapers on the tiled hearth; the low table on which he packed
his last valise had been pushed away from the foot of the bed; and
the window curtains were looped up high, to keep them out of the
dust that the broom was making.

Miss Verinder went into her own room, and remained for a minute
motionless, with clenched hands, struggling for breath. This
parting was too bitter--much too bitter. It was more than she
could bear. She rang the bell, and continued to ring it until the
chambermaid came to help her. Then she began to pack, with feverish
haste.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dusk was falling rapidly and the port light of the _Mercedaria_
made a red reflection in the grey stream when, after less than two
hours, Dyke got back on board. He had achieved his object, but he
roared in anger again at hearing that the mate had not returned
with those men.

They came while he was still shouting. Their boat was alongside.
They were coming up the ladder. Captain Cairns, on the bridge with
the pilot, looked down at the vague clambering forms and cursed
them one by one and all together. They were in tarpaulin coats,
clutching at their bundles or chests and seeming to have an absurd
amount of baggage; one at least of them--if not every one of them,
as the Captain said--appeared to be drunk. The others had to aid
him as he sprang weakly and clumsily from the boat to the ladder.

Then soon the _Mercedaria_ began to glide down the river, emitting
a melancholy siren blast to demand her rights of way. They were
off. The dusk was deepening, the rain swept along with them;
all was greyness, mistiness, and smoke, and the city towers and
pinnacles seemed to sink lower and to fade behind banks of cloud,
below which hundreds of lights began to twinkle feebly. The
wretchedness and misery of departure enveloped the whole broad
estuary.

Dyke had put on a waterproof and a sou’wester, and he prowled to
and fro below the bridge gazing across the water, now on this side,
now on that. He was quiet now, and yet not altogether easy in his
mind. The fretfulness caused by dread of delay and interruption
could not immediately be subdued, and perhaps certain doubts still
lingered. He went down to the lower deck, made his way aft and
stood for a while right at the stern, looking out intently. One
might have supposed that he was now silently brooding on his love,
sadly thinking of the girl he had left behind him; but in truth he
thought only of the voyage and the venture. Watching and waiting,
as the low land slid away and the darkness fell, he was wondering
if a steam pinnace with those confounded custom-house people would
come racing after him, and feeling that he would like to sink them
if they came. But nothing happened. It was all right.

He went up again to the chart-room and stood there, cheerful,
rubbing his hands. He slapped jolly old Cairns on the back and
the two sat there for a bit, drinking whisky and water, and gaily
chatting, like two schoolboys glorying in the success of their
latest prank.

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot had been dropped. It was black night now and the
_Mercedaria_ was safely out at sea; rain and wind drove at her as
she ploughed across the pleasant heave and swell, rolling scarcely
at all, but filled with throbbings and vibrations--with delightful
sounds too, of orders repeated through the darkness, the scurry of
footsteps, of the rudder chains clanking in their grooves, the work
of her screw, the splash of water against her bows: sounds that
are so stimulating and seductive to those who delight in journeys
by sea, but so insidiously distressing, so suggestive of augmented
woe, to those unpractised in the ways of the unsteady deep.

Every throb and murmur rejoiced the heart of Dyke; the very
smells of the ship were refreshing to him. Some of them rose,
to welcome and cheer, as he went down the companion-way towards
the comfortable lamp-light of the saloon. There was the peculiar
characteristic stuffiness, with odours of leather, stale salt
water, and dead fish, enriched at the moment by the efforts of
Reynolds the steward frying meat and onions in grease, and that oil
lamp burning cheerily but with a smoky flame.

Dyke stood in the saloon doorway, his face all wet, his beard
glistening, and the water falling from his coat to the floor. He
stood there, dripping but full of enjoyment, for one moment; then
Reynolds in the cuddy heard him shout.

“Great heavens! Emmie!”

She was calmly sitting at the table, with the lamp-light on her
white face; and she spoke to him in gentle pleading tones.

“Don’t be angry with me.”

But he was angry, terribly angry; with himself or fate, rather than
with her. He did not speak harshly or unkindly to her herself, but
he addressed the woodwork, the skylight, and all inanimate things
with dreadful severity. He waved his arms, he pulled at his hair;
never had she seen him so agitated, so perturbed.

“Tony dear, what does it matter?”

He said that her presence there had put him in a hideously false
position. He said that he must not of course blame her; what she
had done was noble, heroic, angelic; only he ought to have warned
her of the disastrous effect of such an act. “Emmie, you reckless
self-sacrificing saint, you really have carted me. You’ve made me
break my solemn promise. In all my life I’ve never gone back on my
word. My old father foresaw, he feared--and I gave him my word of
honour that I wouldn’t take you out of England.”

Poor Miss Verinder said forlornly, “You must tell your father the
fault is mine. It is I who have run away with you, not you with me.”

But Dyke then said they must stop the ship and land her as soon
as possible. He would go and consult with Captain Cairns. Miss
Verinder said no, she begged him not to think of doing that; she
would go with him to their port of destination and then quietly
return to England. Deprecatingly she explained that she had not
planned this treacherous act, she had never meant to do anything at
all on her own initiative or without his explicit approval; but the
accelerated departure, that hasty good-bye, the bundling her into a
cab and disappearing, had been too much for her. Then the thought
had come of the mate’s boat lying there waiting--and then “Tony, I
had to do it. I couldn’t, I _couldn’t_ help it.” And she concluded
with urgent entreaties that Mr. O’Donnell, the second mate, should
not be made to suffer for her imprudence. Mr. O’Donnell, she said,
had at first strongly objected to bring her off, but she had not
been quite truthful to Mr. O’Donnell. She had “over-persuaded” Mr.
O’Donnell. After that he had been kindness itself; lending her one
of the men’s coats, helping her out of the boat, troubling about
her luggage.

“Tony!” and she stretched out her hand.

She was deadly pale, trembling a little, and her dark hair hung
down loosely about her pleading eyes. Dyke stooped over her and
kissed her cold forehead.

“Emmie!”

Reynolds came in with a tray of plates, and was followed by heavy
waves of that odour of fried steak and onions; he fixed the tray to
the table in some ingenious manner, and every time the _Mercedaria_
softly heaved the plates made a musical clatter. Those invisible
chains rumbled behind Miss Verinder’s head, and before her eyes
two scuttles with brass bolts slowly sank a few feet and as slowly
rose. She shivered, but went on talking; her gentle voice a little
shaky, but very sweet still.

“And I meant--dear Tony--not to give anybody any trouble--not to
get in anybody’s way. But now I fear--that I may not be quite well
on the voyage--at least at first. Tony!” And she looked at him
despairingly.

“I do feel so ill. Can I go and lie down anywhere?”



CHAPTER VIII


Miss Verinder suffered from sea-sickness in a more or less acute
form throughout the interminable voyage. The ship touched at Lisbon
and Dyke wanted to put her ashore, but she refused to stir. They
encountered terrible weather in the long trudge to St. Vincent;
and there, in a spell of stifling heat while the ship coaled, she
seemed so desperately ill that he tried again, with the aid of a
German physician. She refused to move; she might be dying, but she
certainly would not leave the ship. She faintly declared that of
course she was not dying; very soon now she would be quite well.

With the ship in motion again, and a cool head wind in their
faces, she seemed to revive a little; but she relapsed as they
worked southwards towards the equator--a relapse not occasioned
but perhaps intensified by the well-meant efforts of Reynolds to
tempt her appetite with pork and beans, and kindred dainties. She
lived on tea and biscuits--and on the sound of Dyke’s voice. He
was her steward, lady’s maid, and nurse. At meal-time she liked to
have the door of her cabin wide open, so that through the narrow
passage she could hear him laugh and talk. Along with the sound of
his voice, came perfumes of hot coarse food that made her writhe in
sudden spasms of nausea; yet she never closed the door. She took
what gave her joy at the cost of all that gave her torment. Indeed
she never counted the cost in regard to this or any other matter
that concerned her love. Not for an hour, not for a minute, did
she regret that she had come with him. She merely apologized for
causing him such dreadful trouble.

“Tony dear, I shall wear out even your patience. How can you
forgive me?”

He used to tell her that each trifling service he had the honour to
perform was like a tiny piece of flax, and that out of such pieces
she had made a rope so strong as to bind him to her invincibly.
He could never break loose now if he wanted to be free. And he
wouldn’t want. He became husky when he spoke of her courage,
and then he would laugh to cheer her; promising that she should
have three happy weeks at Buenos Ayres while he and that staunch
old sportsman Pedro del Sarto were preparing their jaunt to the
Andes--weeks to make up for all this. “Our honey-moon, Emmie!”

Truly he served her and waited upon her with a surpassing
tenderness. He had a trick of kneeling by the berth, making one
arm her pillow, and with his other hand softly playing with her
hair. That rough muscular hand grew light as a rose leaf while it
swept back the hair and touched her face. And once, while in this
attitude, perhaps because of noticing her debility and frailness,
or because of thinking of what she had done for his sake, he
began to weep. Then, till he recovered composure, she did really
believe she might die; it seemed that in her weak state the mingled
sweetness and pain of their love must surely kill her; and she
thought that, for bringing tears to those eyes, she deserved death.

“There. You musn’t let me get too sentimental, Emmie. Check me.
It’s a fault of mine. Now here’s cheerful news. Cairns says we may
see land in four days. So the worst is over. Down the Brazilian
coast it’s nothing at all.”

They got her up on deck, after they had entered the glorious
harbour of Rio de Janeiro. And she sat, wrapped with shawls,
languidly surveying the broad smooth waters, the vast semi-circle
of mountains, and the garden-like beauty of town and shore. It was
a vague dream-panorama, so far as she was concerned.

Here the ship was joined by two Italians from the southernmost
province of Brazil. These, it seemed, were the consignees of those
bicycles and accessories. They were citizens of Brazil--adventurous
merchants--dealers in bicycles, and a variety of other
things--anything, in fact, likely to prove quickly marketable. As
Dyke informed her, confidentially, it was at their option where
they would accept delivery of his merchandise. They had made all
arrangements for landing the goods, and they would pop them over
the border into Uruguay, as appeared best and most convenient. It
was all going to be as easy as falling off a house.

As soon as the ship steamed out of the placid bay Miss Verinder
went below again. She remained there, listening day after day
to the gaiety of the saloon, a gaiety largely increased by the
addition to their party.

She was once more very unwell--at her worst almost during
forty-eight hours when, as Dyke explained, they were standing on
and off by the lagoon in front of Porto Alegre. They were waiting
for a river steamer of shallow draught that was coming out to
meet them. This steamer, as Miss Verinder gathered, duly arrived
alongside, and, before the dawn of another day, the most delicate
part of their cargo was transferred to her. Miss Verinder listened
with anxious interest to gentle bumps and jarrings, produced by
their temporary consort--to the noisy racket of steam winches,
the shouted orders, the general hubbub that continued during the
lengthy task of transshipment.

Then they were under way again, and Dyke came down to her joyous
and smiling, snapping his fingers in innocent glee. Those Italians
and their perhaps slightly compromising bicycles had gone for ever.
The deed was done. All the cargo now on board was good honest
domestic stuff for the Argentine, and, as Dyke said, laughing, “the
Pope himself might come and look at it, if he cared to.”

They steamed steadily southward, and although Miss Verinder felt
relief of mind, and delighted in the thought that Dyke’s cleverness
and resource had met with a prosperous issue, she still remained
far from well. Then at last they were on the brown mud-stained
bosom of the River Plate. They were between the black stretching
arms of the Ensenada Canal. They were on shore. Emmie stood upon
a stone pier that did not undulate beneath her feet, and leant
against a post that yielded no vibration to her shoulder. She was
better, even as she staggered through the Custom House on Dyke’s
arm; she was convalescent when she entered the train, able to take
pleasure in looking at the flat low land and herds of cattle,
in catching glimpses of a huge two-wheeled country cart, and
fantastic, brightly-coloured figures on horseback; she was almost
well when Dyke helped her out of the train, in the fine noisy
station at Buenos Ayres.

He kept his promise. He gave her the happy weeks. Flush of money,
joyous after the successful voyage, he had only one slight care or
disappointment, and he did not allow this to trouble him long. He
insisted on buying for her wonderful, gay-coloured dresses that had
come to the street called Florida direct from the Rue de la Paix;
like a debonair honey-moon husband with a runaway bride, he could
not buy enough for her; and himself, with hair cropped and beard
trimmed, faultlessly attired, too, in white flannels, was now a not
unworthy companion to those enticing Paris frocks. In the sunshine
and the warmth, lulled by all the charms of exotic novelty,
revelling in the strangeness and freedom of her environment, Miss
Verinder blossomed with beauty and health.

She drank deep of the brimming cup of life. As a favourite poet
expressed the thought that was often in her mind--whatever happened
now, she would have had her day.

She felt that this Buenos Ayres, although the biggest city in the
world if judged by extent, was not large enough to hold her joy.
It flowed out from her beyond the vast chess-board of houses and
far over the dusty plains; it danced with the sunlight on the water
that she saw in flashes as they drove in their two-horse fly along
the incredibly uneven pavement of the streets; it filled the whole
summer night as they sat drinking their coffee under the palm-trees
of Palermo’s park.

They were staying at one of the lesser hotels--a place built
in the Spanish style about a garden-courtyard that was full of
sweet-smelling flowers and shrubs; with the very modern addition
of a wooden hall in which was set forth the one long table at
which the guests assembled twice a day. There were fifty or
sixty of them often at the table d’hôte dinner, a gathering of
many races with representatives of many trades; German commercial
travellers, Argentine farmers come from their estancias to pass a
few days in the city; comfortable Chilian families en route for
Europe, sea captains and their mates like Cairns and O’Donnell,
Frenchmen travelling for pleasure; and generally some of the
engineers and surveyors whose work related to the construction
of the trans-Andine railway. The talk frequently ran on this
wonderful railway that was soon to pierce the great mountain
barrier and enable you to travel from one ocean to the other as
easily as if you were going from London to Brighton. A Frenchman
said that although the railway would be marvellous and admirable as
an engineering feat, he regretted it as something which attacked
one of nature’s last remaining strongholds, which would rob you
of romance and mystery; but Dyke jovially laughed away this
notion, vowing that the Andes were big enough and strong enough to
withstand a hundred such inroads, and referring them to a certain
book on the subject which it might not become him to particularise
more fully.

Those of the hotel guests who did not know him already made his
ripe acquaintance during the progress of a single meal; and they
rarely failed to felicitate Emmie on her good fortune in having
such a man to act as escort and guide.

“Yes, yes, Mrs. Fleming. Vairy well-known man throughout the
Argentine Republic. Vairy well respected man to the populace and
the government.”

Dyke had given out that she was Mrs. Fleming, a lady journalist,
visiting South America for the purpose of gathering literary
materials, and that it was his task to show her things of interest;
but these chance friends drew their own conclusions as to the
bond that subsisted between the two. Dyke was not really good at
deception; after making those hidalgo bows when they met for dinner
and ceremoniously standing by the door as she passed out, he would
allow his far-reaching voice to be heard in the gardens as he
called up to her in her room: “Emmie, my darling, come down for a
stroll. It’s a perfect night.”

Moreover, they could not do otherwise than notice the meek
adoration in her face as she looked at him. But this crowd did not
mind. They liked her; they felt sure that Fleming, her husband,
was a blackguard, and that she had been driven by his ill usage to
place herself under the protection of the illustrious Don Antonio
Dyke.

On the other hand the official people, with their wives, daughters,
and young lady visitors, fought shy of Mrs. Fleming, dodging
introduction to her and ignoring it afterwards if undodgable--more
especially at the Lawn Tennis Club, where nothing could prevent
him from taking her. Indeed one might say that just as he had been
“that man” in Prince’s Gate, so she had become “that woman” in
Buenos Ayres.

When he left her in the hired victoria outside consulates,
ministries, or government offices--and necessarily he did thus
leave her now and then,--frivolous clerks and minor officials
peeped at her from behind sunblinds or even came forth to get a
good stare at her. Aware both of this curiosity and its cause, she
did not at all suffer because of them. The swarthy coachman drew
the carriage into the shade of some gum trees, mounted the box
seat again, and immediately fell asleep; and Emmie brought out her
grammar or conversation book, and unconcernedly pursued her study
of that Spanish tongue which Dyke lisped so fluently. She would
not trouble to change the position of her flaming parasol when the
silly young men passed to and fro, staring. Let them say what they
pleased. She could not now bother even to think of such trivial
matters as conventional etiquette or orthodox relationships. She
was in another hemisphere--too far from the Albert Hall for it to
be worth while.

From the Argentine government--a government that has always
proved the most liberal in the world towards colonists and
travellers--Dyke was obtaining every facility and authorisation
that he required for his new journey to the Andes. Emeralds had
not been mentioned, but it was understood that he would explore in
search of mineral deposits, and if he found anything worth finding
a full share of the value of the discovery would be secured to him.
For the best of all reasons, he was going to make the trip alone
and not in company with his associate, del Sarto.

To his great disappointment Pedro del Sarto had totally vanished.
It seemed that his varied business had gone wrong, he himself was
obviously dropping into low water, and then, of a sudden, more than
a year and a half ago, he had left Buenos Ayres without a word to
anybody. Dyke hunted throughout the city for a faithful underling
of Pedro’s, a man called Juan Pombal. But this man had also
disappeared. Then, after more hunting, he found an Indian woman who
had been Pedro’s cook, housekeeper, and perhaps other things as
well; but beyond confirming the fact of the departure she could
supply no information. She expected to see her master again one of
these days, and meantime she bore his absence philosophically.

The loss of the expected comrade and partner was a blow to Dyke;
but, as has been indicated, it was temperamentally impossible to
him to permit any disappointment either to weigh upon his spirits
or to turn him from his purpose. He must go by himself--that was
all about it. Nevertheless, during his first surprise at so strange
a failure to keep a business appointment, he confessed to Mrs.
Fleming that he felt “flummuxed” by dear old Pedro’s conduct.

“I told him I would be back here in two years--at the very latest.
And you see, Emmie, he _believed_ in my discovery. He believed
we had got a fortune in it. He believed, even before I gave him
the map I had made. He trusted my judgment--just as I trusted his
fidelity. We were _fond_ of each other. Emmie, I don’t pretend that
Pedro is really a gentleman, but he is a clinking good sort all
the same. He and I met first at Punta Arenas--when I was messing
about after the beach gold--and we became like brothers. Well then,
if he was down on his luck, why didn’t he write to me? And since
he knew I was coming back, why couldn’t he wait? The very fact of
his losses would have made him all the keener for such a chance
as this. It beats me, his going without letting me know. I can
only explain it by a guess. More than eighteen months ago. Well, I
expect it was the gold again down south that tempted him--and he
and Pombal lit out for it, thinking they’d make a bit down there
and be back here again in time for me.”

Once more Emmie was taking intelligent interest in Dyke’s
preparations, and the three happy weeks glided into four and five
before everything was completed. A contractor at Mendoza was
supplying the mules and their equipment, with an excellent muleteer
as chief; seven other men, of whom four were Indians, stout hefty
fellows inured to hardship and capable of using picks to good
effect, had been engaged by Dyke himself; light mining tools,
shelter tents, suitable garments, and a tremendous provision of
food in the most conveniently compressed form, made up the outfit
of the expedition. It would assemble at Mendoza, and make its real
start higher in the hills, at the existing end of the railway.
The month of December had now begun, with settled summer weather.
As Emmie understood, any further delay would be unwise if not
inexcusable.

And so once more their parting drew very near. These were the last
days. One lovely night when after driving about the park they had
left their carriage in order to saunter among the crowd and listen
to the band, she spoke to him quietly but very seriously concerning
the risks that he would run on his mountain trip.

“Risks!” he said gaily. “There are no risks of any sort or kind.”
There was only one word that could adequately describe this amusing
little jaunt, the word that he had used all along. It would be a
picnic--a picnic, neither more nor less. And searching for similes,
he assured her that he would be as absolutely safe up there as he
could be on his native Devon cliffs, or Richmond Hill, or Hampstead
Heath.

But apparently not satisfied, she suggested dangers one after
another. Hostile Indians? Storms and mists? Ice crevasses? Snow
avalanches? Excessive cold?

“No, no--of course not.” He laughed at her suggestions. Hostile
Indians no longer existed, it was summer time, the only snow likely
to interfere with him would all be melted. She also laughed,
but then continued her serious talk, linking her arm in his and
pressing it to her side as they strolled away from the music, the
lamps, and the crowd.

“Tony dear, you make light of things because you yourself are so
wonderful. You don’t feel cold or fatigue. Danger is nothing to
you.”

“Oh, isn’t it, by Jove? Emmie, I’m the most cautious old bird
alive. It’s been my maxim and watchword never to take an avoidable
risk. No, that’s a fool’s game. And--see here--if I’ve been careful
in the past, how much more careful shall I be in the future--now
that I own the universe? I swear it’s true, Emmie. No chances
henceforth for Anthony Dyke.”

But she did not yet seem satisfied.

“I wasn’t thinking of your real work,” she said quietly.
“Only about this one little expedition. Supposing it wasn’t
yourself--suppose it was somebody else, not trained and clever like
you--suppose it was just an ordinary person--would you still say
there was no risk?”

“Yes, I would,” said Dyke, after a slight hesitation. “None worth
considering. No, any ordinary healthy person could do it as easily
as falling off a house.”

“Do you say that on your honour, Tony?”

“Yes, on my honour.”

“Very well,” said Miss Verinder firmly. “Then I’ll go with you.”

Throughout the drive back to the hotel, he was explaining that he
had spoken of ordinary men, not of women; that not for a moment
could he consent; that it was quite splendid of her to entertain
such a wild idea, but she must dismiss it at once and for ever.

“Oh, no, Tony,” she said, smiling in the darkness as she took his
hand and got out of the carriage. “We’ll consider it quite settled,
please. Of course I mean for the trip only. Directly you are ready
to go to Australia I’ll say good-bye--and no more nonsense.” And
she squeezed against him as they passed through the fragrance of
the hotel garden. “I’m too proud of you to be selfish. I’d never,
never try to come between you and your real work.”



CHAPTER IX


A railway journey of something under seven hundred miles, during
each mile of which the train and everything in it became enveloped
in a deeper and deeper mantle of dust, brought them to the town
of Mendoza at the foot of the Andes. They stayed here for two
nights and a day; then they went on again, climbing now, in the
narrow-gauge railway, as far as it could take them. They slept the
following night at a still comparatively decent inn, and next day
mounted their mules and began to ride.

It was at this point that Miss Verinder, or Mrs. Fleming, or
whatever one liked to call her, temporarily disappeared; her
place being taken by a person in breeches, with boots big enough
to contain a fur lining and at least three pairs of stockings--a
person who might readily have been mistaken for a bright-eyed,
eager, excited lad, until for a moment she took off her immense
straw hat and disclosed an unexpected profusion of dark wavy hair.

Thus she rode out, bestriding her large mule jauntily, with Dyke
on one side of her and the capataz or chief muleteer on the
other side, the keen thin air fanning her, the fiery sun blazing
at her--through such scenery as till now she had seen only in
dreams, along the edge of precipices, past ravines through the
hidden depths of which torrents went raging, beneath stupendous
overhanging cliffs--she rode out into brain-reeling wonder and
heart-folding enchantment.

“Isn’t it a lark, Emmie? What?”

“O pig, O laziest of swine,” said their capataz, smiling at her
ingratiatingly, but addressing her mule. “Will you move when a lady
rides you or will you not?” And, dropping back, he belaboured the
hindquarters of Emmie’s mule with a substantial stick.

This highly praised muleteer--Manuel Balda by name--was ferocious
enough of aspect; dressed in the usual gaucho style, with slouch
hat, poncho, and knife at belt; rolling his sloe-like eyes and
showing yellow teeth in a weather-stained face. But his manner had
been quite magnificent when Dyke ceremoniously presented him to
Emmie a few minutes ago, and since then he had taken off his hat
and bowed to her at least five times. His voice, too, grew gentle
and caressing whenever he addressed her directly. He spoke English
well, and one understood at once that he was inordinately proud of
his knowledge of the language. He called her Missis, not Señora or
Donna. “Now he moves for Missis,” said Manuel, satisfied with her
mule’s accelerated pace. “And I, Manuel Balda, myself would die for
Missis”; and he doffed his hat and bowed. “That is comprehended,
is it not? Don Antonio has said me to be the guard of Missis all
time our journey shall last. Be it so, to the last drop of my
blood.” Then, with the most graceful ceremony, he gave his cudgel
to her, vowing that he had trimmed it for this express purpose, and
begging her not to spare its use. Then with another profound bow
he galloped ahead, and they saw him no more till the evening. He
had gone on to overtake their train of pack-mules, which had been
slowly plodding forward for the last three days.

Emmie, although amused by Manuel’s words and manners, did not
take to the man himself. In her first swift impression there was
something vaguely disconcerting, as of weakness or shiftiness
detected behind the outward show of loyalty and strength--the
quite vague feeling that decides one during one’s first interview
with a servant. It did not in any way perturb her, but it was just
sufficient to make her ask Dyke if he trusted Manuel implicitly.

“I don’t trust him an inch further than I see him,” said Dyke
cheerily. “But he knows his job. That’s the great thing. Presently
I’ll let him see--and the others too--that there’ll be trouble for
anybody who attempts to play the fool.”

They rode on, and the imagination almost fainted in presence of
reality. It made one turn dizzy to look down, it set one trembling
to look back. Each sharp turn or twist of their path revealed
things more tremendous. The heights and depths, the chaotic masses,
the savage grandeur of it all, made the fantastic impossible
pictures drawn by that popular artist Gustave Doré seem, in one’s
memory of them, pale and insipid.

Yet they were still on the beaten track. This was the high road,
through the pass, from one civilized country to another; and
plainly its frequenters treated it as a quite ordinary affair.
Single horsemen came galloping down at them with loose reins; a
four-horse coach swept round one of the bends in the granite ledge
at break-neck speed; long files of laden mules made clouds of dust,
and twice the path was blocked by droves of cattle in the midst of
which gauchos, apparently gone mad, were shouting and cursing.

Emmie’s excursion had but begun, she was merely doing what every
tourist did, although the romance and grandeur of it kept her
pulses racing. “I am in the Andes,” she murmured to herself. “I am
with _him_--on the road to the Uspallata Pass--getting higher and
higher in the Andes.”

They spent that night at the last of the mountain inns to be
encountered by them for a long while. Next morning the true fun
would begin.

The inn was a wretched little assemblage of low sheds standing on
flat ground a few hundred yards away from the track; but it had a
large walled corral in which the baggage of dozens of mules lay
stacked or tumbled in loose confusion. The mules themselves--Dyke’s
lot among them--were picketed or tied to the walls. Muleteers, the
railway people, itinerant dealers, and so forth crowded the place.
The living-room had more dreadful odours than the cabin of the
_Mercedaria_. The sordidness and dirt of the boarded compartment
in which she and Dyke were to sleep surpassed belief; one glance
at the two beds--the two lairs--caused the flesh to creep in
anticipation of the attack of an insect horde. Dyke, on their
arrival, immediately became occupied with his men, and Emmie fell
into the charge of the landlady, a dirty but kindly matron, and of
Manuel Balda.

“A bit rough,” said Dyke; “but Manuel will help to make you
comfortable.”

No one of course could do that; although Manuel, who was torn in
opposite directions by his desire to be outside with Dyke examining
the equipment and to be here waiting upon his lady, gallantly
attempted the impossible task.

She wanted water to wash with; but both he and the landlady
implored her to abandon this desire. Already the glare of the
fierce sun had scorched her delicate complexion. She might rub her
cheeks with vaseline or any procurable grease; but, for the love of
heaven, no water! No more washing, Señora, for the future, if you
are still to mount.

And now let us chat of these insects which “Missis” dreads in
the beds and elsewhere. Well, it is so; and so unhappily it will
continue. Perhaps Missis has not thought to meet lice in profusion
at these big altitudes?

Miss Verinder confessed that she had not indeed thought of such
a meeting; and, before an hour had passed, accepting the strong
advice both of Manuel and the landlady, she decided to have her
hair cut. Manuel did it for her--using a pair of shears generally
employed on the manes of mules, after he had carefully cleansed the
blades with oil.

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right,” she kept murmuring, as she sat upon
a wooden box and the long dark tresses fell about her on the
dirty floor. “Yes, I feel more comfortable already--much more
comfortable.”

Dyke, coming in just when the operation was finished, gave a yell
of horror and fury at sight of her sitting there brutally bobbed,
changed while his back was turned from his glorious dusky-locked
princess into a travesty of du Maurier’s popular heroine, Trilby.
He beat his breast, he waved his arms, he roared. And then, as
Emmie pacified and explained, he picked up fallen meshes, ran them
through his fingers, and almost wept.

“Your greatest loveliness. Oh, Emmie, I can’t bear it. It has
broken my heart.”

“Don’t be silly, Tony. My hair will grow again. There will be
plenty of time--when you are gone”; and again she explained her
reasons.

Ah, yes. Well, it must be admitted, lice are lice. Dyke muttered
and moaned, but gradually submitted to the cruel stroke. Yes,
perhaps, after all, it was the wisest thing to do. “But mark you.
This”--after winding a long mesh round his fingers he was putting
it in his pocket-book--“this I shall keep for remembrance to my
dying day.”

She did not mind the loss of her pretty hair. She did not mind
anything--not the foul odours, the greasy food, the bitter cold,
the inability to sleep. She feared nothing, she regretted nothing.
She was with him still, postponing the inevitable, sharing life
with him high in the Andes.

She slept a little towards dawn, and was awakened by Dyke, who for
two hours had been working with his men in the darkness outside,
loading the pack saddles, seeing that everything was in its place.
Now the cavalcade was ready to move. They drank some hot coffee,
and started.

It was wonderful to her, most wonderful, that departure in the grey
mists of morning. Near a broken gap in the wall of the compound,
Dyke, sitting high beside her, held the rein of her mule, and they
remained there while one after another the mounted men and the
laden mules flitted past, silent, ghostly; vague shapes seen for a
moment and immediately lost in the mist. Then, with his hand still
on the rein, they trotted boldly on, as if through a white sea,
until he had reached the head of the column.

The ground was apparently level and there seemed to be few
impediments, but as yet nothing of the way was visible. When Dyke
spoke to her his voice seemed to come to her from a distance and to
roll from her in the moving waves of white vapour; strange murmurs
swept above her head; the rattle of hoofs as they struck upon stone
made echoing sounds behind her; and she had what she supposed to be
an illusion of a bell that chimed and tinkled, now near, now far
away, but never ceasing.

Then swiftly yet gradually the mists broke and the light came
flooding down upon them. First the tall peaks caught fire, vast
rock buttresses thousands of feet high flamed with orange and
crimson, black ragged cliffs shone and glittered, fields of
dazzling white snow hung like islands in the air till dark brown
mountains rose to carry them; then the whole brightly coloured
masses of the hills seemed to spring forth, to steady themselves,
to grow less fantastic of shape, more solid of texture; and in a
few moments it was broad daylight, with a translucid blue sky,
every object far or near sharply defined and the mighty crests of
Aconcagua, monarch of the wilds, highest mountain of the southern
continent, towering majestic in the blue.

The strong, clear picture given to her by the sunlight was one that
would remain with her until memory itself should fade and grow
dark. The ground was not as she had supposed, level and free from
obstacles; they were winding their way along a rock-strewn valley
and mounting fast. The pack-mules, twenty or more of them, with
lowered heads climbed patiently each in the footsteps of another;
at intervals rode the eight mounted men; and Dyke now pushing
ahead, riding alone, seemed an enormous figure in his huge mushroom
hat and hung round with wallets. He was happy and joyous, beginning
to sing scraps of song; so that his music floated back to them
pleasantly, and after a while caught the riders with its pleasant
contagion and made them sing too. But queerly there mingled with
the song or its pauses that other music of the bell, which she had
fancied an evocation of tricked senses. It was with them still,
faintly chiming, gently tinkling, as if a cadence of the march
itself.

Manuel Balda, most attentive of guardians, riding by her bridle
since Dyke had left her, explained the matter. Pointing to a small
grey pony that plodded unladen in advance of the pack-mules, he
told her that this little mare was the “madrina” or adopted mother
of the troop. With the bell strapped round her neck, she and not
any of the riders was really leading the mules. Wherever she went
they would follow. If they strayed, the sound of the madrina’s bell
would bring them back. They would be miserable, despairing, if they
lost it.

Emmie liked Manuel better to-day; indeed that first faint distrust
or questioning doubt of him recurred no more to her contented mind.
Every hour he proved himself more useful and valuable. Moreover,
though no less respectful, he was less ceremonious now that they
had entered the wilderness and left the beaten track far behind
them. He laughed and joked, told her travellers’ tales, and showed
her how he could swing down from his saddle and pick up a stone
from the ground as he cantered past.

He told her, amongst other things, that there had been much
talk last night at the inn concerning Ruy Chaves, the notorious
bandit of the mountains. This bloodthirsty ruffian and his gang
were still at large--a disgrace, as Manuel opined, both to the
Chilian and the Argentine frontier forces--and quite recently they
had seized a pack train rich with merchandise and murdered the
inoffensive merchants and muleteers. “It is a shame, Missis.” And
amplifying his narrative, Manuel related how travellers in small
parties feared to move freely because of Chaves, how the poor
defenceless little innkeepers were forced to pay him tribute; and
how, impelled by the cruel humour that is traditionally common with
such pirate-dogs, he “teased” as well as killed his victims--for
instance, making them dance and caper on the edge of precipices,
till to the prick of his knife they jumped into eternity.

Miss Verinder wished to know if Mr. Dyke had heard this talk about
Ruy Chaves the bandit; and Manuel said yes, he had heard it all,
and he “had laughed and done so.” And Manuel snapped his fingers,
and then looked very fierce; implying that bandits would be wise to
give him, Manuel, as well as his friend and patron Don Antonio, the
widest of wide berths. “You not fear, Missis?”

And he laughed gaily, assuring her that bandit gangs worked
frequented highways, and never came up here where there was nothing
to prey upon; and that in any circumstances they would not for a
moment dream of attacking a strong armed party such as this. Missis
need not fear it or anything else. Starvation, thirst, snow--those
were the true enemies. And there was much food on the mules, there
would be water nearly all the way, the full summer season was
propitious.

“So we hope Don Antonio will find what he seeks. It is treasure, is
it not, Missis? Ah, ha”; and Manuel laughed cheerfully. “You must
not say me. But _he_--Don Antonio--has allow the boys to guess. You
can see in the boys’ eyes--so happy and hoping. The Indians most.
They will not grow tired--our Indians--now they know what they
hunt.”

“Which are the Indians?” asked Emmie. “They all seem just alike.”

In fact, except to a practised eye, there was little that could
enable one to distinguish between the descendants of the men who
had once owned the land and the descendants of the men who had
stolen it from them. Spanish or Indian, these muleteers were
dressed in the same manner, spoke the same tongue, and had the same
wild cut-throat look except when they were singing or laughing.
There was not even a difference of complexion visible. But, as
Manuel said, these good boys, although of unadulterated Indian
blood, had long enjoyed the advantages of civilization. They were
gauchos; they had abandoned the savage hills for the prosperous
plains. Yet they could be more useful here than anybody else,
because this was their ancient home; they would be able to work
well in the air that their ancestors had breathed.

Dyke, far ahead, had reached the top of the valley, and,
dismounted, was leading his mule up a steep ridge. This was the
first taste of difficulty. They climbed the ridge, scrambled down a
long slope, and emerged into another valley, more rock-strewn, more
chaotic than the first, with a deep-cut stream running a serpentine
course towards them.

They made a long halt by this stream during the intense mid-day
heat; and then moved on again till dusk. Their camping-place was
on a wide ledge above the stream, where the admirable Manuel made
them extraordinarily snug. Dyke was well pleased. Although going so
easily, they had made a long march, he said--and not a mule galled,
not a pack shifted. Before crawling under the tilt of their little
tent, he stood for an hour talking to the men round the camp
fire--“jollying them,” as he called it.

Emmie, already asleep, warm and snug in the nest of blankets and
furs, murmured a welcome as he crept into it; changing her attitude
when he had settled down, dreaming a little, and then sinking back
to those depths of slumber in which memory itself lies still and no
gleam from the surface of life pierces the darkness.

And so it was day after day, as they moved steadily northwards.
It seemed to her that she had never been doing anything
else. Climbing, scrambling, fording; eating tinned meat and
hard biscuits, sleeping on the ground, smearing oneself with
vaseline--all this seemed perfectly natural, the easy routine of
the glorious nomad life that she had been leading for many years.

In these early days of the pilgrimage they were not yet entirely
out of touch with the rest of mankind. The distant roar of an
explosion, with the long rolls of thunder that followed it, told
them of the operations of those railway engineers, blasting the
rock barrier where they could not pierce or evade it. Through a
cleft that gave an unexpected view of lower slopes and foot-hills,
they saw roofs and smoke that belonged to a camp made by other
engineers, who were busy with the underground telegraph cable. Once
they saw a string of mules carrying provisions to a military post,
and twice they met solitary riders searching for lost mules.

For the rest, all things were exhilarating, charming, amusing.
Dyke, always now in the high spirits of a schoolboy, rode by her
side whenever possible; made her sing with him snatches from
Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas--“The flowers that bloom in the
spring, tra-la”--gave her his revolver and made her fire it.

“Aim at that white-topped boulder, Emmie. Now then--let go!
No--don’t shut your eyes when you pull the trigger. Go on.”

He loaded the weapon again, and she practised its use in a
business-like way, with open eyes. She certainly hit boulders, but
perhaps not those that he had selected for her target. Whatever
she did, and however she did it, he laughed and praised her. He
made her strain her eyes to see black spots in the sky that were
condors, hovering, waiting, at an immense height, for the chance of
a meal.

It seemed once that their chance had come.

Manuel was leading the column, and she and Dyke had dropped back
to the rear. It was easy going, judged by the higher standards of
her experience, and yet still most tremendous. They were following
what might be almost called a path, half way up the brown hillside.
Rolling stones and débris shifted and slid beneath their feet, and
every now and then they came to horrible narrow scrambling corners
on top of almost perpendicular cliffs, where a stumble would have
been as dangerous as the “teasing” knife of that atrocious brigand.
Emmie, having got round the worst of these corners, was admiring
the cautious and yet fearless progress of the pack mules, and
thinking that travellers might well describe the sure-footedness of
these animals as miraculous. They never made a mistake. Then, that
moment, the pack mule immediately in front of her fell. She saw its
hindquarters rise, and its laden back disappear; then there was a
flash of its four feet, upturned, and the weight of the saddle and
burden carried it head over heels into the void. It was dreadful
to see--and to hear too. One heard it crash down the precipitous
slope, the loosened stones tumbling with it. Down there at the
bottom, far below, it lay stretched--perfectly still.

Then, before the men had done shouting, it got up; it staggered to
its feet, shook itself, and attempted to struggle upwards. They
all watched. To give aid was impossible. Wildly and desperately it
began to work its way along the bottom of the ravine, with head
lifted and ears pricked, listening for the tinkle of the bell, as
the bell-mare plodded onward, unconcerned. They could see that its
pack was hampering it terribly. Then, in its scrambles and leaps,
the surcingle broke. The whole thing was under its belly now, and
it bucked and kicked, till it fell again. When it rose this time,
the pack was round its hocks, and plunging, jumping, springing like
a chamois from rock to rock, it kicked itself free. Then, lightly
and easily, it sprang along the slope, clambered up, and rejoined
the head of the column, where it curvetted playfully to the sound
of the bell, and rubbed its wounds against the ribs of the beloved
grey pony, which was still plodding on, and still quite unconcerned.

Little incidents like this, ending so happily, served but to
enliven the days.

Indeed, so far, the whole jaunt was, as Dyke had said, a picnic--a
picnic on a large scale; a “lark” of antediluvian dimensions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Imperceptibly, but most completely when one perceived it, the
character of their pilgrimage had changed. The way was harder, the
obstacles were greater, the heat and the cold became more difficult
to support. Each day’s march seemed unending, yet the distance
traversed in a day was comparatively small. They moved still from
valley to valley, fighting the walls that intervened, laboriously
working round insurmountable barricades. But hitherto the line of
their march had been falling as well as rising; now always the
valley they entered was at a higher level than the one they had
left.

Dyke was systematically jolly with the men at the now frequent
halts. He allowed a magic word to be spoken in order to keep up
their spirits--the word that for hundreds of years has controlled
the destiny of the land and signified life and death to the races
of men that inhabited it. Gold. Yes, why not? If we can dig or
scratch some to the surface at the end of our journey, or wash it
out of its dirt in those bowls that we have brought with us on that
saddle, well, we shall be able to make presents all round, beyond
the handsome amount of the promised pay. So come along, my lads.

One whole day they were stopped by wind and storm. That was a
day of wretchedness, and next morning Dyke did something that
appeared utterly fantastic to Emmie watching and shivering before
she mounted her mule. He gathered the men together, jollied them,
and then solemnly paid them the money that they had so far earned.
Truly it was astounding to watch this solemn handing over of the
paper dollars to men who were hundreds of miles away from shops and
drinking saloons and any other of the joys that money would bring
them. But Dyke knew that they liked the feel of the notes in their
fingers, the comfortable glow which came when they had bestowed
them in recesses of their garments, the certainty that this the
price of so much accomplished toil could never be forfeited or
taken away. Understanding that one should not travel on credit even
in the remotest places, he had brought much money with him.

They all started merrily, and the burning sun soon dried their wet
garments. Emmie ceased to shiver, and could smile when Dyke praised
her courage and good humour. He said they had a bit of a ridge
to get over in the next few days, but _after_ that it would be
downhill again--all easy going, plain sailing, what you could do on
your head.

       *       *       *       *       *

They crossed the ridge.

It was an exhausting episode. The scene had become Dantesque,
terrible; they were amidst a ruin and devastation that had been
wrought by countless ages, and still the work of destruction was
continuing. These gigantic hills were slowly crumbling to dust;
their sides, torn and split, poured down together with torrents
of melting ice the very fabric of which they were composed, so
that their foundation lay buried beneath a vast, ever accumulating
rubbish heap. And over and through this débris the little party
laboured upward; through twisting lanes of detached rocks as large
as churches, under high jutting crags that looked like fortresses
shattered by a titan artillery, upon shifting beaches of smooth
pebbles, in refuse that time had pulverised so finely that it was
here a layer of sand and there a quagmire of mud. Riding was no
longer possible. One led one’s mule, one panted and gasped for
breath in the increasing thinness of the air. One stopped and
rested every moment that one might.

On the first and the second night of the climb Emmie suffered a
little and a great deal. The cold was almost unbearable; it numbed,
it stabbed, it seemed to gnaw away the envelope of flesh and then
play havoc with one’s bones. Dyke took the most tender care of
her, but neither wraps nor solicitude could keep her warm. Towards
morning of that second night he took alarm, scared by thoughts of
frost-bite, when she confessed that after considerable pain all
sensation seemed to have gone from her feet. He took off her boots,
woollen socks, and stockings, and for a couple of hours rubbed her
bare legs and feet. She was all right; the suspended circulation
restored itself; and daylight showed him the white flesh stained
with dirt, but not discoloured, and quite unswollen. He put grease
on her feet; and Manuel brought them a breakfast of condensed
milk, some ground sugar, and a biscuit. The lamps refused to boil
water for tea, and only by much coaxing had they consented to give
out heat sufficient to thaw the milk. It froze again before Emmie
finished her portion.

“Now let’s be off,” said Dyke; and looking at her attentively,
he asked if she felt sick. “No? Well, that’s grand of you. Now,
listen. The worst is really done. To-day’s climb will bring us over
the top.”

They climbed long slopes of pebbles in which they sank to their
ankles. At each footstep they slipped back; if they trod upon a
slab of rock it slid from beneath their feet; the mules floundered
and sent down cascades of loose stones upon those behind. Between
the slopes came stretches of nearly bare ground. They skirted
glistening fields of snow, made an immense detour above the neck of
a glacier that had plunged into and been held by the gorge furrowed
out by preceding torrents. And all this time the sun beat upon
them with hammering strength.

Sometimes an hour was spent in climbing, with many halts, a
hundred yards. One halted now without orders because one must,
mules lay down and let the sound of the bell grow faint, all along
the line the men were coughing. If one made a false step and
stumbled, one immediately caught one’s breath and had a fit of
semi-suffocation. Then, as soon as one was able to breathe again, a
sort of despairing drowsiness possessed one; a weak recoil both of
mind and body urged one to move no more, to escape at all hazards
the anguish of further effort, to close one’s eyes, lie down,
and forget the odious impossible task. On the last and longest
slope Manuel Balda abruptly gave in. He was seized with mountain
sickness. Two of the Indians tried to pull him to his feet, to help
him on, but he went down again.

Thus all were suffering--except Dyke. Just as he had not seemed
to feel any real annoyance from the cold, he appeared to find
no trouble in keeping his lungs comfortably at work without a
sufficient supply of air. With his arm about her waist he pulled
Emmie, almost carried her, along with him till they reached the
naked and nearly level table-ground that was the summit of their
climb. Now he went back, leaping and sliding down the slope to the
rescue of Manuel. He brought him up, and went down again to drag up
the mules. He wrestled with them, pulled them, pushed them, somehow
set them going, and one heard his cheery shouts from far down below
while he still expended his super-human energy.

Then at last they were all up--the men lying on the ground,
the poor mules side by side, their heads all one way, their
nostrils widely distended as they vainly sought more air, their
legs shaking, and the sweat pouring in rivers from their heaving
flanks--and Dyke stood there laughing, snapping his fingers,
chaffing, “jollying” his too feeble crowd. He also praised them,
swearing that they had done grandly, and that they might feel
proud of themselves. But it would not do to linger, he added; for
the afternoon was getting far advanced, and the lower they could
get before pitching their camp the better it would be. A few more
minutes, and then down we go.

For these minutes he sat beside his Emmie’s prostrate form, and
“jollied” her in her turn.

“You angel, you have been magnificent. You have set us all an
example.” And laughingly he confessed that, after her performance
on board ship, he had dreaded lest she might be sick again in
the mountains. He confessed, too, that until they were fairly
started and “things began to come back” to him, he had forgotten
that there was this little high bit to negotiate. “We are at an
elevation of sixteen thousand feet. Do you realize it? We are well
above the summit of Mont Blanc. In Europe people would say we
had made a remarkable ascent.”--and he laughed. “Yes, quite an
ascent--something to write about to the newspapers. It is only out
here, in this glorious atmosphere, that it seems such a trifle.
No, I oughtn’t to have said that. It was very wrong of me. For of
course I know that it must have tired you. You dear girl, you are
so splendid and brave that I forget. But all easy going now--as I
promised you. And, Emmie, I want you to have a good look at the
view. You’ll say it’s worth all the trouble. Sit up, dear.”

She obeyed him, and looked about her with dazed eyes at the
incredibly superb panorama. Truly, if one had been able to breathe
painlessly, if one’s head had not seemed to be bursting, if the
murderous sun had not been melting one’s spine and battering at
one’s shoulders, it was a view to compensate one for the trouble of
attaining it.

One seemed to be lying on the roof of the world, and the nearer
peaks, which still rose above them, were its towers and cupolas;
across its parapet one gazed at a vast semi-circle of sunlit space.
Looked at from here, the great brilliantly-coloured hills through
which they had fought their way appeared smooth, gently curved
and rounded, dull of tone; northward one saw, as if painted on a
map in sepia, with streaks and patches untouched by the brush, a
perspective of almost parallel ridges that one guessed were the
outlines of unending valleys; while eastward beyond a range of
lower summits, one had a glimpse of the plains themselves and a
true horizon, a flat, faintly golden sea meeting the sky at a
distance of eighty, a hundred, or perhaps more miles away. Closer
to one’s eyes, if one looked directly downward, there were strong
colours, forceful shapes. Spires of red rock glowed fiercely
beside a profound gorge filled with purple shadow; and an immense
unbroken cloak of snow that stretched from the crest to the base
of one neighbouring hill gave off a white smoke in the sun’s rays
and made rainbow shafts hover amidst the smoke. But the prevailing
impression was of colourless distance, measureless space, and light
so strong that it destroyed the substance and form of all that it
shone upon.

They began the descent. Two thousand feet lower down one felt
an immense relief, after another thousand one was breathing in
comfort; all the heads had ceased to ache; Manuel Balda was
cracking jokes, laughing at sickness, vowing that he had stopped
that time merely because of a slight stitch in the side of him.

Next day they rode on, through a valley wider and easier than any
they had yet entered. Dyke set the men singing, made Manuel the
leader of the march, and kept by Emmie’s side. She saw condors
at close range. Four or five of them rose from the dry bed of a
torrent, and, coal-black in the sunshine, swept upward on extended
wings. They looked enormous, as sinister and evil as their ugly
reputation had led her to imagine. One of the men fired his rifle,
but without effect. They soared into space, vanished.

Dyke spoke to her of the emeralds, telling her how he meant to
set about the work of exploration. Without his telling her, she
understood that he felt excited as they drew nearer to the goal.

He talked to her also of “the sense of direction.” This was after
she had paid him compliments upon the unwavering confidence with
which he had led them through the labyrinth of hills and vales.

“It is too wonderful, Tony. I can’t think how you do it.”

“Well,” he said modestly, but much gratified, “of course, there’s
the compass--and the sun. Besides, I can always go to any place
where I have once been. Then I have my landmarks. If you want to
know, I’m looking for one of them now. It’s about due. Yes,” and he
smiled complacently, “I suppose I _am_ rather good at finding my
way. The gods, Emmie, gave me something beyond the usual European
outfit--they gave me the _sense of direction_.” And he held forth
about this instinctive faculty, saying it was being investigated
and that much more would be known concerning it later on. There had
been some good research work with homing pigeons, migratory birds,
and wild as well as domesticated dogs. “I don’t attempt to explain
it myself. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it--and you know you’ve
got it. It was that and nothing else which saved my life in North
Australia in the year 1884. I was temporarily blinded, by the sand,
you know--so that I couldn’t see five yards ahead--but I knew. I
didn’t go in circles--I didn’t falter--I didn’t have to calculate
or think. I knew. Yes, that’s my trump card--and except for it, I
wouldn’t be so bumptious. I might consent to take a back seat to
others--the gentlemen that the press eulogise for their scientific
training--and their learning--and culture. But Anthony Dyke beats
them _there_. That’s why I say, put your money on old A. D. What?”

He broke off, laughing. “How I do gas about myself! But you lead me
on, Emmie; you spoil me. You should check me instead of encouraging
me. All those Indian fellows behind us have the gift I speak
of--but perhaps less fully developed. You remember where we lost
that pack--the place where the mule went down. If I told one of
them to go back there, he’d find his way unerringly--even, mark
you, if he didn’t actually retrace his steps. He’d get there.”

They rode on. And Emmie felt as if her past had gone from her
utterly; it was not now that she had grown so accustomed to this
new life that she felt she had been leading it for years. There had
never been another life.

And certainly, could they have seen her, no old friends of Queen’s
Gate or Prince’s Gardens could have helped to recall her to
herself. They would not have recognised her. Although she still
spoke so gently and smiled so dreamily, she sat her mule with the
nonchalant ease of a gaucho; her whole aspect was wild and fierce;
the remnants of her stout straw hat, battered out of its original
shape, were tied beneath her chin and bound about her neck; her
dusty smeared face was almost black, with yellow lines that had
been scored by perspiration. She might have been an Indian boy--as
Dyke had told her. He said he must hit upon a good man’s name and
rechristen her.

Soon after the mid-day halt there came into view the landmark for
which he had been watching. With a grunt of satisfaction he pointed
it out to her--the white dome of a mountain that had shown itself
above the nearer summits. “That’s my guide now.” The sight of it
made Dyke pleasurably excited. He talked of his emeralds again.
They must push on steadily now and waste no time. He galloped off
to tell Manuel that the goal was drawing nearer, and then returned
to her.

They rode on--on into silence. That day Emmie was conscious of
it, in this manner, for the first time. Yet it must have been
with them, one would think, for a long while. The silence seemed
to have become a property of space. It could no more be broken by
the slight sounds they made--such as the note of the bell, the
shuffle of so many iron-shod feet, the shouts of the muleteers,
the song of Dyke--than you can break the ice of a frozen lake by
throwing a small stone at it. The stone slides across the surface
till it comes to rest. She remembered the noise of explosions
heard during the early days, when they were still in touch with the
fretful ambitious labours of humanity--those engineers on the new
railway blasting the rocks that opposed them. Here it was as if the
mountains could permit no noises, not even echoes of noises, that
they did not themselves create. They commanded a universal hush, in
which, after breathless listening pauses, they sucked the roaring
wind through their jagged teeth, threw a garment of snow from their
shoulders, or with earthquake groans let their sides gape open and
a vast new ravine appear in the raw wound. Then one might hear
their reverberating voice high in the air and low in the ground.
But otherwise all must be still. Silence and solitude--the sense
of loneliness undisturbed since the world began grew deeper as the
shadows of the hills began to creep across one’s path. It seemed
then to be a valley into which man had never been, into which no
man should ever go.

But that was an illusion, mere nonsense. As Dyke told her, in the
dim past many men had been here. These valleys, all of them running
north and south, had formed a great trade route that stretched
nearly from one end of the continent to the other. During the
dominion of the Incas, perhaps earlier still, perhaps ages and
ages ago, before the Pharaohs reigned and pyramids were built in
Egypt, this was a busy crowded highway of commerce and government;
with troops of soldiers passing and repassing, tax collectors
going south, great nobles being carried in gilded litters, priests
of the sun, long trains of llamas instead of mules carrying
tribute northward from remote provinces or conquered territories.
Doubtless, if one dug away the dust of time, or could remove
the layers of fallen rocks, one would find traces of the great
highway--its buried pavement, the foundation masonry of ruined
bridges, fragments of wall that had belonged to rest-houses.

Yes, if all the ghosts of antiquity should appear, they would form
a multitude to fill the valley floor from hillside to hillside.

Talking of these things led him naturally to speak once more of
the emeralds. Of course, it stood to reason that they mined as far
south as this. In those days the mineral wealth of the hills was
searched with untiring vigour; there were mines everywhere--for
gold, for silver, for the precious stones--above all, one must
suppose, for emeralds. The word was on his lips continually.
Emeralds!

He was eager to push on, but with all his urging, the march had
grown slow and languid. The men seemed tired and stupid; they would
not respond to his cheering holloas. They let the mules string out.
And two or three times Manuel Balda came and asked him if they
might not halt for the night. At last he gave the order.

The night fell swiftly, and it was very dark until the moon rose.
Emmie, after lying down, lifted the flap of their tent, and saw the
bare ground silvered and the rocky slopes greyly shining, and she
felt as if far and near, all round her, to the ends of the earth,
there were solitude, silences, mysteries. The sensation--for it was
no more--had not the smallest importance to her mind. She was very
happy, supremely contented.

She looked at the tiny camp-fire, dying down now, to red embers,
so that the group of men who were crouched upon the ground about
it showed in the pale moonlight with no glow of flame upon their
faces. Dyke was standing by them, still talking to them. It was a
lengthy jollying to-night.

There stood her man. She had got him now, for her very own. These
hired followers did not count; he and she were alone now, with
no human being to come between them. They had travelled far in
their great love--away from etiquette books, beyond the reach of
laws--backward through the ages to forgotten codes and outworn
ceremonies--back, almost, to the elements of life and the rule of
nature. She was half dreaming; and she thought, as she dropped
her curtain and lay down beneath the rugs, that Aconcagua had
married them; these mountains had confirmed the bond, making them
one under the cold stars, mingling their limbs by the pressure of
iron frosts, moulding their embrace to the uneven surface of their
bed of stone; and now the shadowy stately ghosts of the Incas had
gathered round the nuptial tent, to put a mystic seal upon their
union.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Emmie, are you asleep?”

She was asleep, but she woke to the murmur of his voice at her ear.
Lying beside her, he continued to whisper.

“Emmie, there’s something wrong with the men.”

“Something wrong? How do you mean?”

“I can’t understand, myself. I’ve been at them for hours, and
I can’t make anything of them. It’s as though they had become
suspicious--or as though they were all sickening for some infernal
disease.”

“What does Manuel say? Is he all right?”

“No. I believe he’s been somehow upset too, but he won’t own it.
He was helping me with them, seeming to back me up, and yet I had
the feeling that he would let me down if he dared. It struck me
they might have taken alarm because I made them fill the water
skins yesterday. You know--they might have supposed we were going
where there’d be no water. But it wasn’t that. Emmie, I had to tell
you this. Don’t worry about it.”

“No--only because you are worried yourself, Tony.”

“Well, it would be too damnably disappointing if they lost heart
now, or shirked the work I have to give them. But I don’t believe
they will. No, it is some ridiculous and absurd fancy that has
taken possession of them. One must be prepared for anything--in the
Andes. Whatever it is, I’ll put it right to-morrow.”

At daybreak they went on.

There was something wrong with the men--you could not observe them
and retain any doubt as to the fact. They moved slowly, silently,
often with downcast eyes; the whole march was languishing. Dyke
rode up and down the straggled column talking to the riders one
after another; he was very jolly with them, full of fun and good
fellowship, but resolutely determined to get to the bottom of the
queer paralysing trouble.

At last one of them told him. The explanation was more
fantastically absurd than anything he could have divined. They told
him they were disturbed because they had heard him using a word--a
bad word--an ominously bad word to use in these regions. Gold was a
good word--a word to set one’s mind on fire, brace one’s muscles,
and make one’s blood dance. But that other word, emeralds--oh, no.
Merely to hear it, in the mountains, took the heart out of one.
Surely everybody knew that the quest of emeralds was forbidden.

“Yes, that is the silly belief of these Indian boys,” and Manual
Balda, voluble and discursive now that the secret was out. “It
is their legends--how can I say how old? Oh yes, Missis, vairy
silly. But an Indian is a child always. Not Christian-believing.
Su-per-sti-tious!” And he indicated that he and the other three
Spaniards held such nonsense in proper contempt.

“Then why didn’t you tell me the truth about it yesterday?” asked
Dyke.

Why? Ah, that was difficult to answer. Manuel had felt timid, had
not liked to carry tales, had feared that Don Antonio, instead of
laughing and snapping his fingers, might be angry.

“Has he think I was su-per-sti-tious also, like those boys?” he
inquired of Emmie. “See here, Missis. Why should I, Manuel Balda,
fear the evil spirits? I am good Christian. I carry my charm.” He
had pulled out of his clothes a little silver crucifix tied to a
dirty string, and he held it up reverently. “No evil spirit will
dare touch him who carries that.”

Dyke called an immediate halt, and gathering the men together
he thrashed out the matter with them in jovial friendly style.
First he made the Indians talk, encouraging them to say all that
was in their minds; with much wisdom patiently listened to the
long involved stories that they soon began to tell him. For a
considerable time he denied nothing. Yet it was very difficult not
to make mock. To stand there, at this late period of the world’s
history, and hear such legends from the lips of strong grown men,
no matter what their race or position in the social scale! But for
the setting of the scene itself, it would have been impossible.
The primeval ramparts, the forlorn grandeurs, the lonely unvisited
pomp, that surrounded them, made what is real and what is
incredible seem almost to join hands.

They told him stories as old as that of the famous River of
Emeralds and its guarding dragon, who demolished with thunder and
lightning every intruder that sought to steal the hidden richness.
They told him stories as recent as that of the five travellers
from Santiago, who were changed into five round stones only a few
years ago. Then when Dyke thought the time had come to argue with
them and jolly them, they said that perhaps they did not implicitly
believe such tales; but this they did indeed believe--that a curse
or ban had been laid on emerald-hunting, and that for their part
they were averse from defying it. They vowed that at least this
much was true: for hundreds of years no one had done any good by
looking for emeralds, and many had come to grief at the game. The
Spaniards nodded their heads in grave affirmation.

Dyke said that, accepting for argument’s sake the notion of a ban,
or curse or bad luck, then anything of that sort would fall upon
him, the leader of the expedition, and not on them his honest
followers. It was he who made the defiance and wanted emeralds, not
they. And on his head be all the consequences. He said this loudly
and solemnly, looking about him with a majestic sweep of the eyes;
and it had a great effect upon them. They cheered up visibly.

At the mid-day halt he tackled them again, enforcing his
successful argument; telling them he merely wanted them to dig for
him. There would almost certainly be gold. And if emeralds were
found, they need not even touch them. He Dyke would do that. They
were not likely to find so many that he could not carry them all
away himself. He made them laugh, and after that all seemed well.
He snapped his fingers and told Emmie that he had done the trick.
They were now “as merry as grigs.”

All seemed well; the afternoon march progressed rapidly.

At night he sat with them, sang to them; told them how nearly their
destination was reached. Early to-morrow, he said, they would come
to a break in the hills on both sides, and the narrow valley that
opened on their right hand would bring them to the final halt.
They need have no apprehensions about water. There would be no
difficulties.

Next day they started betimes. All was well; the men seemed alert
again, just as they had been when they first brightened to the
sound of the “good word.” Manuel, who was nearly as excited as Dyke
and far more exuberant, obtained leave to go ahead and signal to
them as soon as the promised fateful valley came into view.

There was a cry of satisfaction when they saw him, far ahead,
standing in his stirrups and waving his hat above his head. They
waved to him in return, to show they had got the signal, and he
disappeared. All pushed on to follow him. Dyke shouted and sang, as
they swept into the entrance of this the last of the valleys, his
own valley.

Plainly it was the ancient bed of a torrent that once used to pour
down into the wide valley they had left; strewn with rocks large
and small, it looked even now so much like a water-course that one
could scarcely believe it was dry. The hour was still so early that
the high frowning cliffs filled it with grey shadow, and made the
sunlight overhead seem trebly vivid.

Then they saw Manuel riding back towards them with breathless
haste. They could see him belabour the galloping mule, urging it
to its full speed, oblivious of all obstacles. He pulled the poor
brute almost upon its haunches when he reached Dyke, and spoke in
wild excitement.

“Don Antonio, we are forestalled. There are men there already.”

Dyke would not believe. He laughed. “Manuel, old chap, you have
been dreaming.”

But Manuel, gesticulating, swore that he was very wide
awake--happily so, perhaps, for everybody’s sake. He had seen. He
could trust the evidence of his eyes.

“How many men did you see?”

“Two only. But there may be more, many more, hidden there among the
rocks.”

“What sort of men are they?”

“How can I say? Brigands! A gang perhaps? Not Indians.”

“What were they doing?”

“Watching--those two--as if on guard--as if they certainly knew we
were coming--and so watched and waited for us.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Dyke quietly. “I can’t believe it. It’s
impossible. Emmie, fall back a bit, and keep with the others.”
And he ordered the men to unsling their rifles and to follow him
slowly, leaving the pack-mules behind. “Now, Manuel, old boy, come
along with me.”

The thing was a fact, no day-dream, no optical delusion.

Dyke saw them plainly, unmistakably, when Manuel drew rein and
pointed with outstretched hand. At perhaps five hundred yards
distance the sun’s rays, pouring down through a break in the cliff
top, had invaded the lower ground and made a bright patch of
coloured rock and sand; and here, apparently crouched beneath a
huge boulder, but in the full sunlight, the two men were sharply
visible, although one had an impression that they themselves were
perhaps not aware of how conspicuous they had become. Dyke rode
boldly on and Manuel reluctantly for another four hundred yards;
and the men, though seeming to watch them, did not once stir.

Dyke dismounted, gave his mule to Manuel, and walking on slowly,
with his revolver in his hand, called to the two watchers. They did
not answer, they did not move. They were seated side by side, but
at a few yards one from the other; their hats were drawn down upon
the brow, so that Dyke could not see the eyes which seemed to be
watching him with such intentness; their attitude was identical,
backs slightly bowed, hands clasped about their knees.

When he got within fifty yards of them, he put the revolver in his
pocket, turned round, and beckoned to Manuel and the others to come
on.

He knew now why these men remained so strangely motionless. They
were dead. They had been dead for a long time, possibly for years;
the cold and the rarefied air had preserved their bodies, their
mummified hands were intact, all the flesh of their faces that one
could see beneath the broad-brimmed hats was free from any sign
of decomposition. Dyke, looking sadly down at one of them, judged
him, by the grizzled hair upon his chin and the deep wrinkles at
each side of the mouth, to have been a man of over fifty years of
age, and noticed how the sun had obliterated the colour of the once
scarlet shawl that was bound about his waist, and faded the brown
leather of his belt and pouches. With gentle reverent hands he
raised the soft brim of the hat, and looked at the whole face.

Then he started back in horror and disgust. Not the faintest
suspicion of the truth had come to him till the lifted hat
disclosed the nose, the eyes, the forehead; and all the features,
swiftly assembled, flashed into a long familiar mask. It was his
old comrade, Pedro del Sarto.

He sprang to the other body, and took it roughly by the shoulder.
It fell over sideways, queerly and lightly, like a thing made of
basket-work and hooped steel, and lay there with its hands still
clasping its knees, in the frozen attitude that could not change.
But the hat had rolled away, and Dyke saw the face that he had
expected to see. It was Juan Pombal, del Sarto’s underling and
constant associate.

Dyke went back to the other body, knelt by it, and searched it.
There was no weapon of any kind; there was no food in a wallet on
the ground; but in the belt pouches he found dollar notes, a small
pocket book, and some papers--amongst them, tattered and stained,
the map that he himself had given to Pedro at Buenos Ayres over two
years ago.

Manuel and his fellow Argentines had gathered round; they were
gesticulating, chattering, asking each other questions; while they
feasted their curiosity in scrutinising the dead men. How had they
come here, whence, why? The four Indians stood where the mules had
been left and would approach no nearer.

Dyke, going to Emmie, told her the nature of the discovery he had
made. He understood at once all that it implied. His comrade, his
friend, the man he trusted as a brother, had played him false, had
tried to cheat him, and in making the attempt had thus miserably
met with disaster. No other explanation was possible. Pedro,
falling into low water, as people reported at Buenos Ayres, had
yielded to the temptation offered by a chance. He knew that the
friend he was betraying would not return for a year and a half at
least; there would be plenty of time to come up here, put his dirty
hands in the pocket of treasure, and get safely away. As to facing
Dyke afterwards, he probably made no plans; he left the future to
take care of itself.

“And I loved him, Emmie,” said Dyke bitterly. “I loved that man.”

But Pedro and Pombal did not venture to come here alone. No,
obviously, they must have brought mules and muleteers with them;
they fitted themselves out much as Dyke had done, although in more
meagre style, before they risked themselves in the wilderness. What
had happened to their hireling followers?

The bitterness passed from Dyke’s tone, as little by little he
reconstructed the horrible details of the tragedy. Their muleteers
had deserted them. But why? Perhaps Pedro bullied the men, drove
them too hard, or fed them badly. Or the men took fright, thinking
their provisions might give out. Something had frightened them,
and they had consummated the hideous deed. The betrayers had
themselves been betrayed.

Working backwards to the date of Pedro’s disappearance from Buenos
Ayres, he hit upon the most probable cause of the men’s fright.
It was the menacing state of the weather that struck fear into
their craven hearts. Dark snow-laden clouds banking up from the
south, a spatter of rain and sleet, a wind with ice needles in its
breath--and they had thought that the winter was upon them. Pedro
had started too late; he himself must have known it by then. But he
would not give in. Perhaps the men urged him to turn back, pleaded
with him; but dogged, and resolute even to ferocity, he drove them
on. Then waiting for an occasion, they fell upon him and his fellow
slave-driver, disarmed them, and left them to perish. The doomed
pair wandered hither and thither, lost themselves in a gathering
darkness of sluggish death. Storms of snow hid the faint light.
The wind cut them. They sat down in the shelter of these rocks to
wait till the wind dropped. It was a bad place, the worst possible
place, if the wind changed its quarter and the snow began to drift.
They slept, and woke no more. The snow covered them; the sun melted
the snow. Twice they had been covered and uncovered.

Rancour against a treacherous friend had vanished, and a fierce
impersonal indignation moved Dyke as he thought of the treachery of
those half-bred dogs. The damnable curs--to leave their leaders,
taking food, arms, everything. It made one sick. But, as he knew,
things like this happen in the Andes--have always been happening.

Philosophising presently, he spoke of fear, and of what a horrible
force it is. The most degrading of all passions, it would seem also
the most powerful. Half the wickedness of the world can be traced
to it. When it binds five or six people together in its loathsome
clutch, there is no enormity that they may not commit, because--and
this is so terrible--fear felt in common by five or six men is not
five or six separate fears added together, but multiplied together
many times.

And Emmie, looking round her, thought that this place might well be
the primeval home of fear; in this overwhelming loneliness, among
these dark cliffs, the stealthy grey shadows, and the sunlight
that seemed to make the solid rock tremble, fear was originally
engendered; so that the first live matter, waking to life here,
was afraid--afraid of all things, even of itself. It was only her
transient thought. She herself had no fear. Why should she? She was
with Anthony Dyke.

They resumed the march. There was a question of burying the
corpses, but in view of the evident reluctance of Manuel and the
others, Dyke gave up this intention. The pious task would have
entailed a considerable labour and waste of time. “Leave them
there as a warning,” said Manuel, not to Dyke but to the empty
air. He had fished out his crucifix, and looking back, he crossed
himself and shivered. “Leave them to the condors,” said one Indian
to another. “The condors left them so long without touching them.
Let no one touch them now.” All were eager to get away from the
sinister spot.

A profound depression of the spirits had fallen upon them. Again
they moved languidly and needed frequent rallying. They spoke
apathetically, if not sullenly. Dyke dealt gently with them, and
pleased them by making the day’s march shorter than he had wished.
At night, when they had eaten their food and Dyke as usual went and
talked to them, they seemed contented enough.

They camped at a point where one enormous rock--a monster carried
by ice and stranded here thousands of years ago--stood isolated in
the middle of the way. Manuel Balda pitched Dyke’s tent and made
the sleeping-place behind this rock, out of sight of the camp-fire
and the men, very neatly and snugly. More silent than was his wont,
but as efficient as ever, he carried out his customary duties,
boiled their tea, gave them their supper.

The moon had risen high and was shedding its gentle radiance far
and near, as Emmie and Dyke came round the broken angles of the big
rock, and standing side by side, looked down at their little camp.
All was peaceful; the familiar aspect of the nightly assemblage
gave one a sense of comfort and security. The men lay huddled on
the ground with saddles for pillows; the mules, some with shining
moonlit coats, some dark and shadowy, were ranged behind their
deposited burdens. In the profound silence one could hear the
slightest movement, and a note of the bell as the madrina raised
her head startled one by the sharpness of the sound. Beyond this
one spot of animated existence the moonlight showed them the valley
stretching away tenantless through its stone walls, like an unused
passage in a dead world. There was no need to post sentries on
guard; there were no living foes that could attack the camp. Dyke
and Emmie went back behind their rock, and they too lay down to
sleep.

Dyke woke at dawn, and mechanically groped for the revolver that
from habit he kept within reach of his hand while sleeping. His
hand did not encounter it. No doubt it lay buried in the blankets
and the rugs. He crept from the tent, got upon his feet, stretched
himself, and went yawning round the rock. Then he uttered a roar of
anger.

The place was empty. The camp had vanished. Not a sign of man or
beast was anywhere visible. Like Pedro del Sarto, he had been
abandoned by his cowardly followers. As far as the eye could
reach--and that was for many miles--the valley lay grey and void.
Those scoundrels already had made good their escape from it; their
resented intrusion no longer troubled its blackened heights and
barren flats; it had swept them away with the deadly impalpable
force that it contained. They were gone again, by the path on which
they had dared to come; and Fear triumphant laughed in the sunlight
above the deserted valley and lay down to rest in its shadowed
depths.

Presently Dyke found a small pile of tinned meat neatly arranged
near the ashes of the fire. The deserters had left him food, then?
Not a great deal, but some. He stood looking at the piled tins and
thinking. The germ of panic had entered the blood of those Indians
when they first heard what they called the bad word, and hence
onwards they were diseased, sickening creatures able to spread
contagion to the rest of his crowd; the sight of the dead men,
scaring them, seeming to confirm their notion of a curse upon an
impious quest, had made it almost certain that they would try to do
what they had now done. All of them together had become resolved
to go no further. The Spaniards, little less superstitious than
themselves, agreed to their plan. And Manuel? He too was afraid,
and yet perhaps he endeavoured to be faithful and staunch; but if
those others stood round him with their knives at his breast, his
fidelity would not avail. They would simply tell him what they had
resolved; they would give him orders, and he must obey. They had no
grudge against the chieftain. Dyke knew that they liked him--until
they began to fear him. Thus, if Manuel asked them to leave that
food, they would be willing to do so. They took the riding mules
because, if left, these would have provided the means of pursuit.
Dismounted, he could never catch them. When one of the Indians
crawled on his belly like a snake, and with careful hand beneath
the flap of the tent abstracted his revolver, it was a necessary
precaution, nothing more. They disarmed him merely to prevent
any dangerous interference should he chance to wake. Then, their
precautions taken, the madrina’s bell muffled, and all being ready,
they stole off in the moonlight--with Manuel Balda, perhaps looking
back, trembling, crossing himself, feeling pity and regret. What
must be must be.

Dyke shook his fist in the direction the runaways had taken. Every
bone in their bodies should eventually be broken; but meanwhile old
A. D. had allowed them to put him in a very tight place. He did not
doubt that he could get out of it easily, on his head, if--It would
be almost amusing, a sprightly continuation of the lark, if--Yes,
if he had been alone.

An immense remorse seized him, and he stood for a few moments
with bowed head, staring at the stony pitiless ground. Why had he
brought her here? Wrong--very wrong. But it was not in his nature
to remain brooding on past mistakes when the future demanded prompt
activity. He roused himself, shrugged his shoulders and gave a
grunt.

Those blackguards had left tins of meat but no tin-opener. He
smashed a tin against the rock, and he and Miss Verinder had their
meagre breakfast. He offered her his apologies before sitting down.

“I blame myself--I should have forseen--guarded against it. Of
course,” and he laughed ruefully, “my emeralds have gone up the
chimney. And for ever probably--for goodness knows if I can find
time to come back here again later on. A disappointment, I admit.
But I am not thinking of _that_. Certainly not. I’m only thinking
of you. Emmie--you plucky, jolly little Emmie--it’s going to be
difficult--for _you_”; and he looked at her wistfully. “On foot,
you know! Without our furs we’re going to feel cold at night. We’re
going to miss our nice hot tea, too. Yes, we’re ill provided with
comforts now.” And he laughed again, but gaily this time. “I have
plenty of money--my pockets are full of money. That’s rather funny,
isn’t it? An object lesson, what! No grocer’s shops--or Army and
Navy Stores handy.

“But, of course, you understand, Emmie, my pretty one, that there’s
not the least cause for anxiety. It will be absolutely all right
if we go slow and don’t fuss. That’s the one great thing on these
occasions--never fuss yourself.”

While he talked he was thinking hard. He decided to strike for
Chile and hit off one of the hill roads at its nearest accessible
point. That way they would have nothing to climb; it would be all
down hill. And he calculated the distance and the number of days
that would be required. Could she do as much as twenty miles a
day, on an average? Then he calculated the amount of nourishment
contained in the tins. How long would it last her? He saw plainly
that it was going to be a desperate race against starvation.

He took two blankets for her; he dared not cumber himself with more.

“Now, Emmie, my lad,” he said, smiling at her, just before they
started.

“Left foot foremost. And don’t hurry.”



CHAPTER X


It was nine days later before they met their first chance of
aid. They had emerged from the labyrinth and were coming down
the seaward slopes, along a flat gulley between two low ridges
of granite. Before them at a great distance lay the surface of
the ocean, placid as its name, majestic as death, like a vast
enveloping obliviousness on the confines of man’s brief futile
life; between this and them, but still invisible, stretched a
broad land of hope and plenty, the grazing grounds of Chile,
woods as pretty as gardens, little nestling hamlets, and then
thriving towns, splendid cities, the noise and bustle of prosperous
ports;--but as yet nothing of all this in sight, not one stunted
shrub, not a trace left by human kind. Behind them lay those nine
pitiless days and the eight unendurable nights; a plodding delirium
of cold, hunger, and toil. For more than forty-eight hours he
had not been able to give her anything to eat. How long it was
since he himself had eaten he did not count. He was carrying her
on his back, his arms about her thighs, her arms about his neck,
her blackened shrunken face close against his hairy dust-begrimed
cheek. At intervals he had carried her in this manner throughout
the ordeal, but now his burden was becoming pitifully light.

“It’s all right, darling,” he whispered as he stalked along. “Keep
up your spirits. On my honour I see daylight at last. We have come
out just where I wanted. Sense of direction, what! Trust A. D.”

“Put me down, Tony. You _must_ be tired. Let me walk again.”

“Yes, directly. There’s another steep bit ahead.”

He set her upon her feet soon, and helped her to scramble with him
from the gulley down into a sort of plateau or wide terrace running
north and south upon the hillside. At the southern end of this
terrace they stopped to rest.

They were a pair that might well arouse swift pity in all but the
hardest of hearts. Their thinness alone sufficed to tell their
story and to urge their immediate need. The manifold print of
famine was upon them. Dyke, ragged and dirty, had mysteriously
preserved his strength; while Emmie rested he examined the ground,
peered over the edge of the plateau at the precipitous but not
impossible cliff, went forward to find a better way; moving to and
fro, he looked gaunt, dingy, dangerous as a famished wolf. Emmie,
with lips that the sun had split for want of grease, with blood
rusty and dry upon her chin, with matted hair plastered to her
forehead, looked like an emaciated boy who had been huddled into
the worn-out garments of a grown man. She seemed weak to the verge
of complete exhaustion; her eyes in the enlarged orbits seemed
enormous, spheres of dull glass without flash or glow. Yet her
faith in her companion was quite undaunted, her love for him quite
untouched.

He came and stood by her, snapped his bony fingers and produced
a chuckle in his hollow throat. He said that there was an
unmistakable track straight through this ledge and at the end
descending in zig-zags as far as he could see. It most certainly
would lead them to habitations and the road.

It was at this moment that they heard the sound of a human voice.
Dyke looked round eagerly. As if from nowhere, as if he and his
mule had dropped out of the sky, a man was riding towards them. He
sat high upon a padded and peaked saddle, and as well as himself,
the mule carried a couple of large sacks of forage and various
wallets and bags; till he drew considerably nearer he had the
aspect of a Chilian farmer, who on a business journey had somehow
attempted a short cut along the face of the hills. He shouted to
them in Spanish, telling them to stand still; and even before
noticing that he had drawn a pistol, Dyke whispered a warning.

“Emmie, I don’t like the look of him. Take everything quietly.
Don’t interfere, whatever I say or do. And, Emmie, this fellow
mustn’t know your sex.”

Indeed, one could not like the look of him, now that he drew close.
He was a thick-set man of about forty, with small blood-shot
eyes in a swarthy scarred face; his whole air, suggesting sullen
fierceness, stupid cruelty, unreasoned suspicion, was very
distasteful to Dyke. This peremptory stranger seemed far from being
the friend in need for whom one had hoped.

Dyke, obeying his order and the menace of his levelled revolver,
stood now with raised hands; and Emmie had to rise too and assume
the same attitude.

“We are neither of us armed,” said Dyke, meekly. “But my boy there
is very tired. Please don’t trouble him.”

The man told them to pull up their outer garments, in order to see
if there was anything concealed about their waists. They obeyed
him. And he then told them to turn round, so that he could look
at the backs of their breeches. Then, satisfied that they were
weaponless, he allowed Dyke to drop his hands and the boy to lie
down again. With an oath he asked what they were doing here, and
what they wanted.

Dyke said they were doing nothing, and they wanted food.

“Food?” the man echoed. “Food?” And bringing his mule still nearer,
he stared at Dyke’s high cheekbones and bearded mouth. “Have you
any money to buy food?”

Dyke said he had no money.

“That’s a silly lie,” said the man. “People don’t come up here
without money.”

“No more did I,” said Dyke. “But I’ve been robbed.”

“By whom?”

“By bandits,” said Dyke. “There are many of them about.”

The man grinned, as if amused, and said something to the effect
that such a great hulking rascal ought to be able to defend
himself. To this Dyke replied that he might have tried to do so,
but he was so completely exhausted by hunger. “My boy and I are
almost at our last gasp. You can see that for yourself.” Then
humbly and plaintively he begged for food, saying that the man
assuredly had food stowed away in those wallets, and imploring him
to spare a few morsels of it. “Have pity on us. Please have pity on
us.”

The man sat upon his mule, staring stupidly; hardly seeming to
listen to these piteous appeals, but to meditate. With his eyes
still on Dyke’s face, he dropped his rein round his saddle-peak,
passed the revolver from his right to his left hand, drew from his
belt-sheath a formidable knife, and then replaced the revolver in
its holster.

“You are lying,” he said, with some more oaths, but with no sign of
real anger. “You may have money concealed about you, as surely as
I have food in my bags. Perhaps if I searched your filthy carcase,
I should find it.” Then he began to grin again, as if an idea had
come into his sluggish mind. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Dyke said he was going down the hillside towards the high road.

“And further, perhaps,” said the man. “To hell, if I choose to send
you there. Eh?”

Dyke gave a little groan, and began to tremble very perceptibly. He
gazed at the man in mute despairing entreaty.

It was horrible. One could see the man’s mind dully working; these
poor wretches were utterly in his power, and he was cudgelling his
slow wits for a means of gratifying himself by making them suffer.
Merciless as a tiger, stupid as a wild hog, he meant to torment
them; their helpless condition afforded the chance of inflicting
pain, and pain must be inflicted. To run his knife into them would
be pleasurable, but too tame a jest. Here was the chance of real
fun. He wished, if he could, to work the thing up into a huge
side-splitting joke that he could brag about afterwards.

And presently he got upon what he felt to be the right line.
Grinning, and with the conscious effort of one who forces himself
to appear as a wit although nature has not given him an original
sense of humour, he said it was true that he had food, but he did
not feel disposed to part with it for nothing. Yes, he had good
food--bread and meat--wine too; and telling Dyke to keep his
distance, he opened a wallet and turned its gaping mouth so that
the food could be seen.

“There, that’s what you want? Eh?”

Dyke, trembling from head to foot, stared at the food and groaned,
as if in the agony of his craving.

“Ha, ha.” The man laughed. Then he said, with the same pompous and
straining effort, that he was quite willing to trade his food. If
they had no money, they at least had clothes. He would give them
a little food in exchange for their garments--say a bit of bread
as big as his finger for their boots; another such mouthful for
their breeches; another for their socks; and so on. Then, having
satisfied their hunger, they could continue the journey in their
shirts. That would keep them cool after their repast. It would also
be very amusing to him, and make a merry tale. He said he loved a
bit of fun. He and his friends were famous for their jokes: good
fellows all, liking to make the rocks echo to their laughter.

In vain Dyke pleaded. The man said those were his terms. If Dyke
and the boy accepted them, they would all three sit down quietly
and make the exchanges; and he laughed at the gaunt starving
creature who shivered and quailed and at last consented. Emmie had
risen to her feet, and, silent and intent, was watching.

They had no choice but to agree, said Dyke, tremblingly.

Then the man dismounted. He suffered Dyke humbly to hold the mule’s
rein as he did so; not turning his back as he got out of the
saddle, but swinging his right leg high over its peak so that he
came down facing his victim. But in the very moment that his feet
touched the ground he fell. In that brief fraction of time Dyke had
slipped his left arm through the rein and struck with his right
fist.

The man went down exactly after the style of the prize ring,
when something nearly if not quite as good as a knock-out blow
lands upon the jaw; and his attitude on the ground was similarly
characteristic--face downwards as he struggled to rise.

Dyke sprang upon his back, frustrating the attempt; with the
terrified mule rearing above them, nearly wrenching out the
shoulder of Dyke, he nevertheless kept his place. He was battering
the man’s face upon the stony earth because of his reluctance to
let go the knife; he was throttling him as well, working hard at
his windpipe; he was giving the man no respite or ease.

He got up presently with the knife in his own hand. He patted and
soothed the mule, led it a few paces away, gave it some hay to
nibble from one of the forage bags. Tranquil and composed at once,
in the manner of mules, it allowed Emmie to take charge of it. The
man lay quietly where he had been left, emitting groans--real ones,
not sham ones.

Dyke went to him, kicked him, and told him to get up. He obeyed at
once, staggering to his feet and moving his hands vaguely. He was
dazed, but could understand all that was said to him.

Dyke had a very ugly smile as he looked at his bleeding face, but
he spoke quietly and with a great affectation of politeness. He
told him that he might go now. They would retain the mule, but they
did not require his company any further.

The man obeyed, beginning to move stumblingly in the direction of
the zig-zag path, but Dyke barred his progress.

“No, not that way,” he said. “That’s the way we’re going ourselves.
You would taint the air for us. You smell of garlic. That way,
please”; and he pointed with the knife to the cliff.

The man, as if waking from his stupor, pleaded anxiously; the cliff
was too steep, to attempt it meant certain death. But Dyke said no,
he had examined it; any agile, fearless person could easily manage
it.

“Besides, this is my fun. You fellows can’t have all the fun to
yourself. I, too, like a joke--even a stale joke--the joke you’ve
seen so often. Please tell your master how well I’ve learnt the
trick of it”; and he pricked him lightly with the knife. “Now,
skip--spring like a guanaco, dance like a mountain goat. Let the
rocks echo to our laughter.”

It was dreadful to see. With clumsy antics, in a sullen rage and
despair, the man retreated from the goading knife. Driven nearer
and nearer to the edge of the cliff, he made strange abrupt pauses
and capered heavily before moving nearer still; then, shrinking,
recoiling, on the very brink he really danced.

Emmie called to Dyke--“Tony, don’t. Tony, don’t”; but at first he
did not seem to hear her.

“Tony, stop,” she called again. “You are making me feel faint. I
shall lose the mule.”

“Oh, all right,” said Dyke, grumblingly.

And he ceased to use the knife, and used his boot instead. The man
crouched on all fours, lowered himself over the brink, hung by his
hands, disappeared. Dyke stood there watching him, laughing at him,
as he scrambled, fell, and rolled. About a hundred feet down he
seemed to stick fast; or fear prevented him from launching himself
further. Dyke went to the mule, came back with the revolver. “Go
on, you clumsy fool. Go on, or I’ll shoot.” The man looked upward,
but disobeyed the order. “Go on, I tell you. Very well”; and Dyke
fired--not at the man but near him. Immediately he went on again,
fell, rolled, scrambled, and at last was gone.

Then Dyke and Emmie dined. It was a never-to-be-forgotten meal.
They ate sparingly, feeling their internal cramps and pains melted
by the warmth of a divinely gentle fire, and yet almost dreading
that what gave back their lives might take them away again if they
were not careful. Above all else, the wine seemed to restore their
forces and set the blood flowing in their veins.

Dyke, dangling his legs over the abyss, talked gaily but
philosophically.

“I oughtn’t to have let him go with his life. No, I really ought to
have killed him, Emmie. But, then, I knew you wouldn’t like--And
I never like to myself, either--if it can be avoided. Of course,
I spotted at once that so poor a specimen as that couldn’t work
alone--that he was just an understrapper.” And Dyke explained and
apologized for the slight untruths that he had felt compelled to
tell in regard to the money. “You can’t call that lying, Emmie. I
never lie. I hate lies. That was mere poker talk. If he had known I
had it, and I hadn’t been nippy enough to down him first, he’d have
sent a bullet through me and you too. I thought it all out while he
was riding up to us--in fact, the moment I guessed he was one of
the gang. If I was to spare his life, I must conceal the money, or
he’d tell the others. He hasn’t anything to tell them now.” Dyke
chuckled as he said this. “And it’ll take him some time to get
home.”

It was past noon. Emmie mounted, and Dyke led the mule. Thus they
proceeded very comfortably, encountering no difficulties, on a
track that grew plainer and more easy all the way. Before long they
stopped and ate again. After another two hours they took another
snack. Before the sun went down, they came in sight of what Dyke
had been seeking. “There,” he said, pointing downward, “do you know
what that means, Emmie? It means safety. Yes, safety at last.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a base camp of the engineers--not the engineers of the
railway, but those employed in relaying the underground telegraph
cable. One saw two rows of sheds where the men slept, and, close
by, something that might almost be called a house. This, as Dyke
knew, was an inn that had been established there four years ago
when the cable people first appeared in the hills. All round and
about these buildings were scattered heaps of material, broken
implements, balks of timber.

Dyke said that on the other side of it they would find the open
road, only a mile away.

“So we shan’t want the mule any more. And in any case it’s just as
well to leave him here, and save ourselves the bother of answering
questions. But we’ll keep this”; and he took the revolver from the
holster. “It might come in useful--even yet. One never knows. Where
did our friend keep his cartridges? Ah, here we are.” He refilled
the empty chamber of the revolver after extracting the spent case,
and, laughing, drew Emmie’s attention to the fact that the weapon
was of English make and Army Service pattern. “Where did the
blackguard get it, Emmie? Between you and me and the post, people
ought to be a lot more careful than they are in bringing fire-arms
into these South American republics. It _pays_, but I begin to
think it isn’t really right.”

He stripped the mule of saddle and everything else, shook out a
heap of hay for it to munch, and left it.

Some prowling dogs barked at them in timid fury as they stood
at the inn door, but no watchful attendant came out to welcome
them. The door was locked, and none of the engineering folk
showed themselves in response to Dyke’s shouting. Then after a
little while a man came round from the back of the house. He was
a shambling, hang-dog sort of fellow, and he seemed afraid of his
visitors. He said he could not possibly take them in; although it
was true that the place had once been an inn, it was an inn no
longer. The engineers had gone a week ago, taking all possible
custom with them. He and his wife were ruined. Dyke said that he
and the boy must spend the night there, and they would pay for
their accommodation. Fearfully and unwillingly, the man opened
the door, saying that they should settle the matter with his
wife. Dyke followed him into the house. The wife proved to be a
small, alert, brown woman, and obviously very much the better half
of the firm. Of uncertain nationality, she jabbered French and
Spanish alternately, sprinkling her discourse with a few English
words also. She showed no fear, but she was as reluctant as her
husband to perform an innkeeper’s task. She said there was no food,
no drink, nothing. She urged the visitors to proceed on their
journey. But Dyke made short work of her scruples, and ignoring her
inhospitable manner, promised to pay her well. She said then that
if they insisted, they must have their way. “We are all alone here,
my husband and I. We are very helpless. Often we are forced to do
what we are told, whether we like it or not.” As to food, she could
give them coffee, bread, perhaps some cheese. Dyke said that this
was enough.

The building consisted of three rooms: in the middle a public room,
that they had already entered, and on each side a smaller room; one
the guest-chamber, and the other used by the innkeepers as their
kitchen and bed-room. Dyke took possession of the guest-chamber.
For furniture it had a low truckle-bed, a small table, and some
three-legged stools. The woman, bustling in and out, brought coffee
cups, hung a metal lamp to a hook on the wall, and asked them
innumerable questions, looking at them curiously with her quick
little eyes.

While waiting for their coffee, Emmie lay down upon the bed, and
immediately slept. Dyke strolled out of the house, walked all
about, and presently went into the kitchen and talked to the man as
well as to the woman. In his turn he asked questions. He asked if
by chance they were expecting any other visitors. The woman said
no, certainly not. Who should ever come here now that the engineers
had gone? Then he asked if, since the engineers left a week ago,
anybody at all had been there. They both said no, not a soul. Had
there been any passers-by? No. Were they sure that they had not
seen any horsemen--one horseman--or a farmer on a mule? No.

He went then and stood at the open doorway, looking across at the
vacated sheds and the refuse of timber and iron. The night had
now fallen, thinly and greyly, more than dusk, and yet much less
than darkness, so that one could see all salient objects, even at
a little distance away. Dyke stood there, noticing everything,
thinking about everything. He did not feel easy in his mind. There
was something very suspicious, if not quite inexplicable, about
this inn and its landlords. He did not want to make any more
mistakes. Emmie was in sore need of a night’s rest. He was keenly
anxious that she should get it. But he thought now that perhaps it
might be wiser to forsake the comfort of a bed, and, pushing on
farther, sleep in the open by the roadside. Should they drink their
coffee and go?

The woman came out of the kitchen, and passing through the room
behind him, said that the coffee was ready. She took it in to
the guest-chamber, but he did not follow her. He remained in the
doorway. He was doing more than looking out now; he was listening.

In the guest-chamber, the landlady set down the steaming pot of
coffee, and, bright-eyed, jabbering, quick-moving, called to Emmie
on the bed. Emmie raised herself, sat up, stretched her arms;
and the woman, who had sidled close, with an action as quick and
sudden as that of an animal, slid a brown hand into the opening of
Emmie’s coat, and felt her bosom. Then swiftly she stepped back and
laughed. “Yes, a woman! I thought so”; and as Emmie rose, angry
and disgusted, she laughed again, and with darting hand gave her a
playful pat behind. “Yes, a woman all over.” And roguishly nodding
her head, she bustled from the room.

Dyke at the doorway, listening intently, had fancied that he heard
a sound of horses’ hoofs, but it was gone again, and he thought,
“Yes, but the ground looked almost like a meadow beyond those
sheds--smooth and stoneless.” Then he heard the sound close and
near, and almost immediately saw two horsemen riding towards the
door. They came on until he could see them distinctly--two men in
cloaks and sombrero hats, riding small mettlesome horses. He drew
back and watched them. It was too late for him and Emmie to get
away now; and, as he guessed, they were in a peril greater than any
they had met in the mountains.

The two men did not immediately enter the house. The innkeeper came
from the kitchen with a lantern, and, after tying their horses to
posts near the door, they walked away with him talking. They seemed
to be waiting for something. Then more men arrived, perhaps ten
or a dozen, all mounted, but on mules, not horses. These bestowed
themselves and their animals in the empty sheds. The light from
the lantern, carried now by one of the horsemen, showed them
fitfully--as an ugly lot. Orders were asked for by some of them and
instructions given by the man with the lantern. He said they would
move from here at two in the morning, and they could sleep till
then.

Who were they? Dyke without difficulty guessed; and he wondered
if one of their crowd, a man with torn clothes and a broken face,
had yet joined them. The nature of their attitude to himself might
be affected by the presence of that stupid swine. Why were they
here and upon what errand were they engaged? Planning to pounce
at daybreak on some carefully tracked booty--a pack train, a
government consignment of gold mail bearers, something weak and
defenceless that they could surprise and overpower? Dyke did not
tax his brain. They were here. That was what concerned him.

He went back to the inner room. Emmie had drunk her coffee and
was again sleeping on the bed. He did not disturb her. The oil
lamp burning on the wall showed him the disconsolate bareness of
the room; the one window high against the ceiling was too small
for anybody to get through, even at a pinch; there was no way of
leaving the room except by passing through the public room. He
picked up one of the clumsy three-legged stools, and looked at
it reflectively. Then he put it down, sat on it, and continued
to meditate. Yes, let Emmie sleep. There was not anything to be
done--certainly not anything until those fellows in the sheds had
had time to settle down to their slumbers. They were to move on at
two--that was the order. At two they would begin to stalk their
game; after two they would be busy; till two they were free. Then
the longer one let them sleep, the nearer it came to two o’clock,
the better chance one would have in any attempt to slip out of this
undesirable company. He decided to postpone personal effort as long
as he possibly could.

Those two horsemen came into the house, and were welcomed and
made much of by the landlady. One had a gruff loud voice, the
other spoke quietly, drawlingly. The drawling man called the other
Martinez. The landlady was finding various food for them, although
she had an empty larder for ordinary travellers, and there was
talk of wine, their own wine, the wine that she had in keeping
for them. They talked freely; but Dyke, listening with his door
ajar, knew instinctively that they were aware that the inner room
was occupied. The landlord, of course, had told them about his
unexpected guests. Then all at once the drawling man spoke of
these wanderers, saying he would go in and see them presently.
There was laughter--the man called Martinez laughing gruffly and
the woman shrilly. Then the voices ceased, and Dyke understood that
all three of them had gone into the kitchen and that they were
still talking of him out there.

They returned, and the woman came to the inner room to fetch the
coffee-pot and cups.

“Good trade to-night,” said Dyke, smiling at her. “Plenty of custom
all of a sudden. That’s fine for you.”

“One never knows,” she said, darting her eyes here and there.
“People come and they go. Strange people sometimes--like you two”;
and glancing at the recumbent figure on the bed, she gave a short
shrill laugh. Then she stooped towards him and spoke in a low
voice. “Don’t trouble them until they trouble you. Perhaps they
will leave you alone.”

“Yes, but one must be civil,” said Dyke, sufficiently loud to be
heard in the other room; “one can’t ignore the claims of courtesy.”

And he followed her through the door and closed it behind him.

“Good evening, gentlemen.”

They were seated at the long table where the innocent laborious
engineers used to eat their well-earned food. The man called
Martinez, a brutal-looking ruffian, stared at Dyke, but took no
notice of his bow or greeting. The other man rose immediately, took
off his hat, and sat down again. He was the person of importance,
and Dyke concerned himself with him and paid little regard to the
uncourteous lieutenant.

As well as a lamp on the dresser, there were two candles stuck in
bottles on the table, so that one had him fairly illumined and easy
to study. He was tall and thin, so sallow of complexion as to seem
like a sick man; every tint of him was vague and unnatural, from
the sunken yellowish eyes, the blue mistiness of his shaved cheeks,
the umber-coloured lips and blackened teeth, to the undyed shaggy
cloth of his coat and the tarnished velvet of his broad belt;
for the rest, there was about him the air of something that must
necessarily cause fear and shrinking in all that looks at it--as
of a pallid ghost in a graveyard, or the body of a hanged murderer
brought into a dissecting room and there come to life again--an
arrogance of sheer repulsiveness that seemed to defy one to look
at it a second time. Dyke observed the mark of a sword cut on his
forehead, the saliva at the corners of the brown lips, and the
spasmodic flicker of his hairless eyelids. He wore two unusually
long knives in a leather belt above the velvet.

“A pleasant calm night,” Dyke said carelessly, as he crossed the
room and opened the door of egress. He stood there looking out,
taking the air. The two horses were in the same place; all was dark
now at the sheds; the landlord had left his lantern on the ground
by the corner of the house. Overhead the stars shone brightly from
a purple sky.

Dyke strolled back to the door of his own room, and, leaning
against its jamb, talked to the pallid man. He spoke politely
enough, but with the careless, indefinably contemptuous tone that
he might have employed to a stranger at his club, somebody who
ought to be a gentleman and yet isn’t.

“You are moving on soon, I hear--before to-morrow.”

“Yes,” said the man, drawling and blinking his eyes, “I do not stay
long anywhere. So I may go soon from here. With me it is always
uncertain. And you?”

“As soon as I can. I have a boy here with me, and he’s very tired.
I want him to get a good night’s rest, and then--”

“Ah, yes.” The man interrupted him. “There is a boy. You are not
alone. There is your boy”; and he turned his eyes from Dyke and
blinked at the ceiling.

“Moving as I do,” he murmured, after a pause, “now here, now there,
not sure myself where next I may be, I do not care to account for
myself. In truth--as is generally known--I prefer not to be met
with or observed, even involuntarily.”

Then he asked Dyke how it was that he, who appeared to be an
Englishman, had so reduced himself in baggage and belongings,
when visiting a neighbourhood as unfrequented as this. In the
same careless tone as before, Dyke gave him a brief but entirely
truthful outline of his trip: describing how he had gone far north
in search of an ancient mine, and how his followers had decamped,
leaving him and his young servant to get out of the scrape as best
they could.

“And you succeeded in getting out of that scrape. It was well done.
And the boy, too.” As the man said this, a flutter seemed to pass
from his eyelids downward through the flesh of his cheeks till it
played about his moist lips as a sickening deadly sort of smile.
“Yes, you and your boy!” And, his face rigid again, he showed for
a moment the underpart of his tongue obtruding through his opened
teeth.

He asked a few more languid questions, but not one in regard to
Dyke’s possible possession of any money; and Dyke knew that this
apparent lack of curiosity on the point was a bad sign.

While they talked the woman brought in the food--an omelette, some
cold chicken, and a flask of wine. She hummed a few notes of a song
as she bustled in and out. Acting as waitress, she moved swiftly
round and about the table, and every now and then darted at Dyke a
glance that seemed to have meaning in it. The man called Martinez
ate greedily, but his leader scarcely at all. He sat staring at the
wine in his glass, held the glass up to the flame of the nearest
candle, and slobbered its edge as he took an occasional sip.

Then abruptly he asked Dyke to leave them alone now, adding that he
would join him later.

“By all means,” said Dyke; and he went back into the other room and
closed the door.

“Emmie, wake.” He was shaking her by the shoulder, but holding his
hand firmly over her mouth lest in waking her she should cry out.
“Listen,” he whispered, “and don’t speak. We have got to do a bolt.
Not yet, but soon. First, hide this for me. Put it right under you
and lie on it.” And he pushed the revolver into her hands. “Now can
you keep awake? Emmie, you must. Somehow keep awake and listen to
what goes on--but pretend to be asleep. Then, when I call to you,
come straight to me and give me the revolver--as quick as possible.
Lie still, darling--and for God’s sake keep awake.”

Then he moved hastily to the table and sat on one of the stools.
He looked back towards the bed and saw that Emmie was lying
motionless, sprawled in an attitude of deep sleep; then he turned
again to the door. Without the slightest sound it had been opened
wide, and the pallid man stood on the threshold looking at him.

“We will not keep you waiting long,” he drawled. “Only a few
minutes.”

“Don’t apologize,” said Dyke. “My time’s your time.”

“Thank you”; and the man half closed the door and withdrew. He
could be heard speaking to Martinez, and for a little while
Martinez growled and muttered to him. Then they moved about the
outer room, and there was silence. Dyke sat quietly waiting and
Emmie did not stir.

Then he heard the woman humming and the chink of crockery as she
began to clear the table. Next moment she had slipped through the
doorway and was at his side. She touched his forehead with her
fingers and spoke cautiously. “They have gone to their horses--and
to fetch something. They will come back.”

“Are you a friend?” said Dyke, looking up at her and smiling
gravely.

“Yes, I’ll be your friend now.”

“So I guessed. That was what you meant when you made those signs?”

“Yes.” And nodding her head she went on rapidly. “Because you are
so brave; and because I am sorry. Very sorry since I told him”; and
she pointed to the bed. “I should not if I had thought. You must
risk everything to get away.”

“That seems the idea,” said Dyke, still smiling at her.

“See.” She stooped suddenly, pulled up her skirts, and whipped a
knife from the clip that held it to her girdle. “I bring you this.”

Dyke shook his head negatively.

“Not? Why? You have a gun?”

“Not, so to speak, about me.”

“Then take this. It is something. Why not?”

“Because directly they come in here they’ll search me. Put it away,
please.”

She did so, talking fast. “I will help you. I will watch. And you
will take your chance--you are very brave. If you could once get
out. There are the horses.”

“Exactly. It had occurred to me. If I could get the horses.”

“I’ll try my best. I’ll watch. Hush.”

Swift as a lizard she glided into the outer room, and begun to hum
merrily as she picked up the plates.

They had come back. Dyke heard them lock the outer door and drop a
cross-bar into its socket. Then, obedient to an order, the woman
entered the inner room carrying the two candles in the bottles. The
pale captain of the revels followed her, pointed with his hand,
and she set the candles on the table. Martinez had come in too. He
dropped some sacking and a coil of rope upon the floor-boards near
the door, and stood there. The woman went out, glancing back at
Dyke. The captain called after, telling her to get wine ready.

“Now we will talk,” he said, “and perhaps drink. But first of
all--if you permit--”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Dyke. “I have no weapon about me of
any sort or kind.”

“If you will be good enough to prove that, we can talk comfortably.”

Dyke, with a contemptuous smile, stood up, opened his garments,
slapped his large breeches pockets, showed them the tops of his
boots, and satisfied them that he was without means of defence.

“That is quite satisfactory.”

“But I notice,” said Dyke, “that you don’t return the compliment.”

“Ah, no. With us it is different,” said the captain, and he picked
up one of the candles, and sauntered towards the bed.

Dyke was there before him and stood in his way.

“What do you want?”

“Only another peep at the boy--the wonderful boy. No, I will not
wake him--not yet. I will attend to him later. But soon.” Mistily
and vaguely, the man moved his disengaged hand as though sketching
in the air the shape of the recumbent form. Then he went back to
the table and invited Dyke to sit down again. He himself sat down,
drew one of his long knives from its sheath, and laid it across his
knees.

“Martinez, the wine. Get some wine ready”; and he sat looking at
Dyke over the table until, after a minute or two, Martinez returned
with a small tray, three glasses, and two flasks of wine. “No, not
on the table. Put it on that stool.”

“Well,” said Dyke, “I am at your service. What do you want with me?”

“With you not much”; and once more there was the muscular flicker
about the brown lips. “But for myself I would like, if possible, to
have a little fun.”

“Oh, damn your fun, Ruy Chaves,” said Dyke forcibly. “You are
Chaves himself, aren’t you? But of course you are. There couldn’t
be two such jokers knocking about at the same time.”

“Martinez.”

Martinez was growling. He picked up the coil of rope; but at a sign
from the chieftain dropped it again.

“Well then, Chaves, I’m tired of your fun,” Dyke went on quietly.
“Get to business. What’s the game?”

“So you don’t like fun. But your boy? Is not all this funny? Oh,
that boy!” And for the first time he laughed. It was a rasping,
whistling snigger. “Suppose now I ask you to spare me your boy.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Oh, ho. You speak resolutely. Suppose then the fancy comes to take
him without your permission.”

“I should be sorry for you to try to do that, Chaves.”

“If it amused me! To keep him with me in the mountains. Ho, ho. You
flush. Be calm. I said, to keep him in the mountains, make of him
my pet and my toy, as you seem to have done.”

“Ruy Chaves.”

“Yes, perhaps to put him in girl’s frocks--and when I have played
with him so--dressing and undressing him--then hand him on to my
men for their doll.”

“Chaves,” said Dyke, raising his voice, “that’s enough. I am asking
myself if it can possibly be true--what people say--that you were
once a soldier--consorting with other soldiers--fighting fair,
as they fight. When did they find you out? When were you first
flogged, or branded--or whatever they did to you, to show what
they thought of you?” He went on speaking, grimly and defiantly,
scarcely knowing and not really caring what he said. From the
bed he had heard the sound of Emmie’s breathing, quickened and
sharpened by fear; and he wanted to drown the sound.

“I think,” said Chaves, “you had better have a drink now.”

“No, thank you, I am not thirsty.”

“Martinez, pour out wine for him. From his own bottle. Let him have
a bottle to himself. There. Toss it off.”

“Thanks, no.”

“Then I think you had better go to sleep.”

“I am not sleepy.”

“Drink. Then you may feel ready to sleep. Sleep is so good, so
comfortable. And remember, I have yet to attend to the boy. When
one sleeps one sees nothing, one knows nothing. Whereas to a
wakeful man, bound fast with cords, and compelled to watch, while--”

Once more Dyke talked loud. Again he had heard the terrified
breathing from the bed. But he chose his words now, such word as
might possibly relieve the strain of the listener.

“Chaves, drop all this rubbish and rot. Stop chattering. Talk
sense. There’s nothing in what you’re saying to frighten anybody.
It’s ridiculous.”

“Be it so. Then drink. We’ll drink together; and happily you may
sleep. Take your glass.”

Behind the bulky frowning Martinez, the innkeeper’s wife showed for
a moment in the doorway, and Dyke saw her sign to him not to drink.
The warning was of course unnecessary. Indeed, the bandit had
himself plainly indicated that he was offering a drugged beverage.

“I am obliged to you--but no.”

“Take the glass.”

Dyke took it then, and, looking steadily at Chaves, he poured the
wine on the floor and replaced the glass on the table.

“Martinez.”

Martinez displayed a cutlass, and taking a step forward from the
wall, felt the blade with his nail.

“Keep where you are, but be ready,” said Chaves; and he refilled
the glass. “Drink. I have told you to drink--and I don’t like to be
refused. Drink this to the dregs.”

For the second time Dyke took the glass. He held it high in the
candlelight, sniffed at it, and again held it poised.

“Drink. It is good stuff for you. It will save you pain. Drink and
forget.”

“Emmie!” Dyke called the name loudly, as he drove the rim of the
glass against the bandit’s sunken eyes and flooded them full.

Chaves gave a yell of pain, and, blinded, spluttering, sprang up
with his knife. But already Dyke had the wooden stool high in the
air; he crashed it down, broke it on Chaves’s head, and sent him
senseless to the floor. Turning, he tried to ward off Martinez with
the fragments of the stool; but his foot slipped on the wet boards.
Martinez cut at him, closed with him, and both went down together,
Dyke underneath.

It was all in a moment, this sudden tumult and struggle. Emmie had
leaped to the signal, and, half mad with terror, she screamed aloud
as Dyke fell. Twice she screamed, in her agony of dread, as the two
men fought at her feet. Then some one fired. One after another,
three shots were fired, filling the room with smoke, seeming to
split the walls with the force of the explosions. And then in the
cloud of smoke Dyke was up, gripping her hand, dragging her through
the doorway.

“Be quick now. Not that way. Here.” The woman was there. She took
Dyke by the arm, led him through the middle room, through her
kitchen-bedroom, and out into the cold clean air. Dyke looked round
the corner of the house. The horses were no longer there. There
were shoutings in the sheds, the men all stirring, roused by the
noise.

“Come quick,” said the woman, hurrying them away, chattering as she
went. “My husband has the horses ready. My husband is good too. He
was set to guard the other door, but he opened it for me.”

They came to the man meekly holding the horses. But pursuit was
too close at hand. Some one--Chaves possibly, certainly not
Martinez--had recovered sufficiently to unbolt the main door and
yell frenzied orders to the gang. One could hear the mules coming
out of the sheds. Then the men began to fire their rifles, blindly,
down the path towards the high road. It seemed to Dyke that it was
too dangerous to use the horses as he had intended. Emmie was in
no state to mount and run the gauntlet in the dark. Yet the horses
might be useful in another way.

He took them from the man, set their heads towards the road, loosed
them. Then he kicked the stomach of each in turn, and they galloped
away. As he guessed, they knew the road and would surely make for
it.

As he and Emmie ran off in the opposite direction, he heard the men
firing. Then evidently they mounted their mules and started on a
stern chase of the galloping hoofs.

Presently he dived with her down a sharp slope until they lodged
themselves in a horizontal ravine. They waited there for sunrise,
and then worked their way back along the hillside, far below the
now silent camp, and onward till they came to the high road.
Trudging down the road, they met almost immediately a Chilian
officer with a couple of gendarmes. Their troubles were over.

The officer, courteously turning, took them to a place that was
at once post-house and barracks, and there provided them with a
two-horse wheeled conveyance which he grandiloquently called a
carriage. He told Dyke that two troops of cavalry had gone up to
the hills, and spoke hopefully of those pests, those disgraces to
civilization, being sooner or later cornered and caught. He said
that they had been too long permitted. He promised that within a
few hours the innkeeper and his wife should be rescued from their
precarious situation, that they should suffer no reproaches for any
indiscreetness of which they might have been guilty as compelled
accomplices of the gang, and that he would hold as a sacred charge
the money that Dyke gave him for their future use.

The travellers drove away then, after breakfast, in their
carriage--jolting, bumping, making the dust and the stones fly,
as they whirled downward side by side; downward, with feathery
tree-tops rising to enchant their eyes, green meadows, sparkling
streams, brilliant many-coloured flowers--downward into the kindly
smiling paradise that nature has spread out between the foot-hills
and the sea.

“Oh, for a bath, Emmie! And what price a bed with sheets? That’s
what I always tell people. If you want to enjoy--But, by Jove, I’ve
forgotten something. The revolver! I must make quite sure.” And
he opened the breech of the weapon and emptied the six chambers.
“Yes,” he said, “just as I thought.” Three of the cartridges were
intact, the other three had been fired. “You saved my life! You
killed Martinez.”

And suddenly he burst into tears. The tears ran down in rivulets,
melting the dirt, whitening his cheekbones, bringing out the red
here and there on his dusty beard. “You killed him,” he sobbed,
“dead as mutton. How the devil you missed me in doing it, I don’t
know. All--all the more to your credit. Oh, Emmie--my little
fragile, delicate girl--the, the bravest creature that ever lived,
as well as the most divinely precious. Oh, Emmie, Emmie.”

Miss Verinder, herself affected by emotion with her arm round his
neck soothed and quieted him.

“Don’t, Tony, don’t.”

She said that she did not really know what happened in that
horrible room, except that she was crazy with fear. She never
wanted to think of the place again, and it would be unkind of him
if he did not help her to forget the agony she felt during the
moment when he was rolling about the floor and she was trying to
get the revolver into his hand. She knew that, despairing, she had
pulled the trigger once. But surely not more than once? It had
seemed to her then that all the people in the room and in the house
were firing together--not merely revolvers but large cannon. It
was hot, too, as if the house was on fire. She remembered no other
sensations of any kind whatever, until the choking smoke lifted and
she felt cold air upon her face and Dyke’s hand dragging her along.

They left the carriage at the nearest railway town, and went on
by train to Santiago. Here, in perhaps the most beautiful city of
the world, they stayed three days, washing themselves, sleeping,
eating. Here too they bought clothes, and became once more Mrs.
Fleming the journalist and Mr. Dyke her guide.

At Santiago he learned, in telegraphic communication with his agent
at Buenos Ayres, that Australia was clamouring for him as much
overdue. Important work awaited him; and he was at once in a fever
to be off, willing to forgo or indefinitely postpone bone-breaking
vengeance on muleteers, thinking only of the new adventure. He
flushed with delight when he found that a steamer was on the point
of sailing from Valparaiso for Brisbane. Since Emmie showed a
strong disinclination to recross the mountains by herself and go
home the shortest way via Buenos Ayres, he said she must travel in
one steamer to Panama, in another to San Francisco; and thence in a
train to New York, where she would have a choice of Atlantic liners.

They parted at Valparaiso; and six weeks later she was sitting at
breakfast in the coffee-room of a private hotel in the Cromwell
Road, Kensington.



CHAPTER XI


Other people having breakfast in the room glanced from time to time
at the lady with the short hair who was sitting all alone at a
table near the window. Gently stirred by the vapid curiosity that
would seem to be the atmosphere itself in private hotels, they had
already put themselves to the trouble of ascertaining that she was
a Miss Verinder who had arrived last night from foreign parts,
and they wondered if the oddly shortened hair meant that she had
suffered from a fever while abroad. One or two of the old ladies
determined, since she was obviously quite proper and genteel,
to make her acquaintance before luncheon--by rolling a ball of
crochet silk across the floor at her, by inquiring if they had
inadvertently taken her chair, or by some other polite method usual
in such places.

A large proportion of the visitors were old ladies, some of them
very old indeed, and each had a comparatively young lady as
attendant or companion--a granddaughter or great-niece, or merely a
nice girl glad to see London under any conditions--who readjusted
the white woollen shawl, cut bread into convenient slices, and made
herself generally serviceable. There was talk about the inclemency
of the weather, the unusualness of it so late in the year; and
these juvenile aids were sympathetic and thoughtful, saying
“Auntie, you won’t venture out, of course.” At a table larger than
the others there was a family group, father, mother, governess,
and well-grown children, visitors from the northern provinces.
The father stood in the window to eat his porridge, and without
searching for pretexts, spoke genially to the solitary breakfaster;
telling her that his way of eating porridge was the only correct
one, and advising her to adopt the method. “At hoam ’tis always
served to us on the sideboard, never on the table.” Then he jerked
his head towards the windowpanes. “Give it an hour, an’ all that
snow will have turned to fair sloosh. I’ve ben watching those
la’ads shoovel away wi’ it off the steps and the footway.”

It was Sunday morning; and Miss Verinder, automatically resuming
one of her old customs, set forth an hour later to attend divine
services at Brompton parish church. The hotel manageress insisted
upon lending her a pair of indiarubber goloshes, and praised her
for her temerity while the page-boy knelt and put them on her feet.
“Yes, I do call you brave,” said the manageress, “to face the
elements on such a morning as this. _I_ wouldn’t have the courage”;
and she shivered. “No, I wouldn’t. And walking too! Why don’t you
let me send Charles to fetch you a cab?... Oh, shut that door,
Charles. I declare the cold comes in enough to cut you in half.”

Miss Verinder did not feel the cold--she was inured to cold. In
fact, the air out of doors seemed to her only remarkable for its
flatness and heaviness. She observed the snow--if one must honour
with the name of snow that niggardly smoke-stained deposit which
men with tools had scraped from the pavement into mean little
banks and defiled with a crust of mud as they swept it here and
there. Changing already to “sloosh” in the roadway, with wet tracks
made by cart wheels, and pools of primrose-coloured water where
the faint wintry sunlight touched it, any approximate whiteness
that it still retained served only to make the house fronts seem
darker, more offensively drab, more overwhelmingly dismal. Out of
the porches and down the steps came people who seemed to be in some
queer manner parasitic to the houses, rather than their owners or
leaseholders; as if the architect’s incessantly repeated design,
the builder’s profuse stucco, and the plumber’s leaden pipes, had
mysteriously engendered human tenants. Born of the Cromwell Road,
they closely resembled it; they were uniform, drab of complexion,
with a dingy respectability that took the last fading lustre out
of the trodden snow and obliterated every spiritless effort of the
sunlight. All similar, but of both sexes, well wrapped in coats
and furs, with prayer-books in their hands, they moved slowly and
cautiously, begging one another to beware of slipping, to avoid
puddles, and to step back and stand still when a passing carriage
splashed the mud dangerously. They seemed to Miss Verinder strange,
small, pitiful. Moreover the roadway that she used to think so wide
had constricted, the lofty line of the house cornices came crushing
down upon her, a narrowing vista of plate glass and window curtains
seemed to close any chance of escape into freedom and open spaces.
Even the terra-cotta mass of the Natural History Museum shrank
to nothing as she approached it, and offered to her, instead of
the dignity of soaring towers and vaulted vastness, a fantastic
little toy, or that picture of a toy that is pasted on the lid of a
child’s box of bricks.

Why had she returned to this particular neighbourhood--like the
wounded animal creeping back to the place it used to haunt before,
largely straying, it received its wounds? As though exhausted by
rebellious originality she seemed meekly to have surrendered to
the force of habit. Or perhaps when the cab-driver asked where
he should take her she had said Kensington as the only name of a
locality belonging to this hemisphere that she could remember in
her great weariness. Because the effort required for thinking hard
was just now impossible, because nothing that concerned herself
personally was any longer of the least consequence; because one
place was the same to her as another, since more than half of the
world had become quite empty and she was condemned to live alone in
it?

She mingled with the small stream of worshippers passing beneath
the drip of the trees by the blank wall of the Oratory, threaded
her way past two or three broughams regretfully brought there by
devout masters or mistresses who could not walk but hated troubling
their stable on the day of rest, and then just outside the church
door she came almost face to face with her parents.

Sweeping into the sacred edifice, they both cut her--Mr. Verinder
in the manner known as dead; Mrs. Verinder with a vacillation of
gait, a fluttering of furs and feathers, the first rough sketch of
a gesture, and a look. It was in its essence a look that Emmie had
often seen at home; the look that came when servants had committed
an accident with valuable glass or rare porcelain, angry but not
really inexorable, seeming to say: “I _cannot_ ignore it. You have
broken our hearts, and we are very much annoyed.”

In spite of the disastrous turn of events that occurred last
August, Mr. and Mrs. Verinder throughout the month and during half
of September were still sustained by a modified form of hope, and
still making strenuous efforts to conceal the disgrace that had
befallen them. They felt that they were engaged in a contest with
time. If they could “hush things up” until their enemy went back to
the wilds no one need know of this truly _fin-de-siècle_ escapade,
and Emmeline need not be given that horrible up-to-date label of
“The woman who did.” Dyke was leaving England about the middle of
September--really going--no doubt of it. Not only the newspapers
said so, but Mr. Verinder--without the aid of detectives--had
assured himself of the truth. When once Dyke was gone all would
be over; Emmeline would come to her senses, rub her eyes as one
awakening from an ugly delirium, and be very grateful to find her
reputation still intact. They could then do anything they liked
with her--for instance, marry her to that old widower who hired the
Grosvenor Gallery for his concert, and thus, as Mr. Verinder put
it, “save her from her temperament.”

Straining therefore towards these ends, they for the moment gave
their daughter what she had already taken, absolute freedom; they
frustrated the desire of Eustace to get Dyke out on the sands of
Boulogne; and they officially intimated to their servants, through
the housekeeper and butler, that a very slight tiff recently
existing between Mr. Verinder and Miss Verinder had now been
completely smoothed away, leaving father and daughter the very
best of friends as in the past. The faithful servants were glad to
hear this; they knew they had a good master, and never meaning to
quarrel with him themselves, they could not understand why anybody
else should fall foul of him. They thought that the girl Louisa
Hodson had acted like a rare fool in forfeiting her situation--for
it should be mentioned that Louisa had been despatched with a
month’s board wages as well as salary, in lieu of notice. She was
dismissed not because her complicity had been established, but
because Mrs. Verinder could no longer bear the sight of her.

Then came the middle, the end of September, and the total
vanishment of Louisa’s late charge. The enemy had gone and his
victim with him. Nothing more could now be done by her tormented
father. In the whole circle of the family acquaintance the dreadful
affair became more or less known. Within those limits it was a
very solid scandal--a scandal that could only have been allayed by
the production of Emmeline herself, and Mr. Verinder was unable to
produce her. He abandoned fictional enterprise, clothed himself
in a garment of silence, and suffered. Conscious that the local
society was talking about him, he had the illusion that it was
talking of nothing else; when old friends like Sir Timothy shook
hands with him he seemed to feel an added pressure on his fingers
and winced beneath this contact with sorrowful sympathy; if people
spoke of such matters as public morality or licentious domestic
habits and then broke off the conversation, he believed they had
all at once remembered his misfortune. Doubtless, he thought, they
condemned him for failing to bring up a family in the way it should
go, for being unable to govern his own household, for letting
things drift until they came to a pretty pass indeed. If now it had
been necessary to issue debentures of those paper mills, he felt
that the terms would be less favourable than in the past and the
response not so large, because confidence was withdrawn from one of
the principal directors of the company. If a man can’t look after
his own daughter, you don’t trust him to look after anything.

In this winter of 1895-96, he suffered, feeling as he walked to
the house and away from it that invisible eyes were looking at him
from all the neighbours’ windows and that he was not holding up
his head as he used to do. Only in the spacious tranquillity, the
well-warmed atmosphere of egoism, the nicely arranged comfortable
total indifference to all things except oneself, that permeates
and makes up the charm of a really good London club--only there
could he shake off his depression and feel sure that nobody was
sympathising with him, pitying him, or blaming him; that if members
laughed at the story of his fugitive child, they immediately forgot
what had set them laughing; that if, going into the coffee-room,
they connected the names of Anthony Dyke and Emmeline, they
disconnected them again, and probably for ever, in the moment of
asking for red currant jelly with the hot mutton or mixed pickles
with the cold beef.

At Kensington these names had been fatally connected. Kensington
knew that Dyke, the famous Anthony Dyke, was at the bottom of
everything, at the side of it too, and all round it. The most
faithful servants will chatter, even at the risk of losing the
best of places. If people are quick at putting two and two
together to make four, they are quicker still at putting one and
one together to make two. Perhaps Miss Marchant, emissary to Mrs.
Pryce-Jones, not really hoodwinked by Mrs. Verinder’s explanation,
had continued to keep a watchful eye. Perhaps as well as Miss
Marchant, the mournful angels on top of the Albert Memorial had
seen the infatuated couple walking side by side, and had told the
summer wind while begging it not to carry the news any further.
Such things always leaked out somehow--more or less. Thus rumour,
busy with both names, had enlivened drawing-rooms, by swift
amplification; and in the protracted absence of Miss Verinder there
had been reports that somebody or other had met her and Mr. Dyke at
Monte Carlo, had lodged next door to them at Folkestone, had bumped
into them at Tunbridge Wells.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the church service she meditated, without emotion, upon
her new social status. Glancing at one or two familiar faces she
thought she could observe a rigidity of feature, a marble restraint
of expression, that was something more than should be produced
by absorbed interest in a religious exercise. They could not of
course, at such a time and in such a place, even faintly nod or
smile at an old friend; but their devotion was not surely quite so
profound in past days; this statuesque aspect of the praying saint
was surely new and significant. She felt a numb grief at having
caused pain to her parents; but she cared nothing for the mental
perturbation of these other people.

Except perhaps Mrs. Bell! She felt a sting of regret, a sudden
realisation of forlornness, as she noticed that, far from assuming
that air of sculptured oblivion, Mrs. Bell from time to time looked
at her in a most distressful manner. Mrs. Bell had always shown
strong regard for her. Emmie was fond of Mrs. Bell.

As has been mentioned, Mrs. Bell owned one of the largest houses
in Queen’s Gate, and it may now be added that her heart was as
large as her house. She was a childless widow of forty-two who had
earned a widowhood in which she frankly delighted by assiduous care
of an elderly invalid husband; loquacious but devoid of malice,
indeed exuberantly good-natured, she loved to clothe her pleasant
expansive figure with grand garments; fair of complexion, gracious,
smiling, when dressed at her grandest she looked blondly opulent
like the queen of diamonds in the very best and most expensive
packs of cards. She was waiting on the porch steps, when Emmie,
after allowing the congregation to depart, herself left the church.

“Now, my dear girl--my dearest Emmeline--you are coming home to
lunch with me. _That_ goes without saying.”

She would take no refusal. Her brougham, the last of the carriages
remaining on the wet gravel, stood with its door open; she pushed
Miss Verinder into it and the footman smothered them with a fur
rug. As they drove away Miss Verinder’s eyes for a moment filled
with not easily repressible tears. She was touched by the warmth of
her friend’s greeting.

“Now I want to tell you,” said Mrs. Bell, with affectionate
impressiveness, when she and Emmie had crossed the hospitable
threshold and were alone together, “I want to tell you at once that
nothing that has happened makes the least difference to _me_.”

“Thank you, dear Mrs. Bell,” said Emmie gratefully.

“I am not even going to ask you what _has_ happened.”

Miss Verinder thanked her again.

“I shall not ask a single question; and I want you to know that you
will be welcomed in this house precisely as before--at all times
and seasons, do you understand? If any of my friends object, then,”
said Mrs. Bell firmly and grandly, “they can stay outside. Yes,
they shall soon find I will not stand anything of _that_ sort. You
see, I am perfectly frank with you, Emmeline. I should be less than
a friend if I attempted to conceal the truth from you. You have the
whole world against you. So far as worldly opinion is concerned,
your only chance is to live it down--just _to live it down_. And,
as I say, by _me_ you will be asked _no_ questions of any kind.
But, oh, my dear child, what on earth have you done with your hair?”

“I had it cut,” said Miss Verinder meekly.

“But _why_?”

“I mean to let it grow again,” said Miss Verinder, evading an
answer.

“I hope so indeed. Now we will go into the other room and have
lunch.” But before opening the door good Mrs. Bell put her hands
on the visitor’s shoulders and administered a warmly affectionate
kiss. Then she looked at Miss Verinder doubtfully, distressfully,
and with a slight piteousness of appeal. “As I have promised you, I
shall not ask questions--unless, my dearest Emmeline, you yourself
would like to tell me every single little thing. If you feel it
would be a relief to you for me to know exactly where you have been
and exactly what you have been doing since you left England--but,
no, I see you would rather not. Then come along.”

And with that tremendous adventure for ever locked in her heart,
Miss Verinder sat down to luncheon.

She remained in the neighbourhood. Cut by her friends and cast off
by her family, she calmly settled in the flat at the corner of
Oratory Gardens and went about just as if she had been anybody else
instead of the disgraced Miss Verinder. The arrangement of the flat
pleased her; she liked the narrow steep staircase with its private
street-door beside the auctioneer’s office; when she closed that
door behind her she felt safe, and when she passed through the door
at the top of the stairs she felt that she was in an impenetrable
stronghold. She furnished the flat charmingly, with antique things
that as yet were not valued by everyone. Mrs. Bell said she had
made it “too pretty and comfy for words.” Louisa Hodson, discovered
without much trouble, came to the flat as factotum, and added to
Miss Verinder’s sensation of being finally established in a shelter
and retreat that was quite unassailable. No one on earth could
interfere with her here. Even when the street door stood wide and
an invader mounted the stairs, there was Louisa at the top of them
to bar further progress and send him down again. In these days
visitors were of the kind that wish to sell tea or dispose of
tickets for a benevolent concert; but neither then nor at a later
period could anyone get past Louisa when her mistress desired brief
or lengthy seclusion; no one--not even Mrs. Bell of Queen’s Gate.

At once Miss Verinder began to occupy herself in the pursuit of
knowledge, as though attempting a sort of higher or secondary
education. She read scientific treatises and learned to draw maps.
She studied such impossible things as logic, rhetoric, and English
composition. She joined a literary society, attended lectures
and classes; wrote essays on subjects chosen by a severe young
professor, and humbly carried them back to him for sharp censure or
faint praise. She was in many ways busy.

Almost at once too there fell upon her that air of self-reliance
which, whether proudly deprecating or gently defiant, is observable
in all women who are for any length of time compelled to manage
without assistance both their outward and their inward lives. All
people knowing her story must see in her appearance as well as her
manner a confirmation of their own way of interpreting it. Even her
cheerful resignation was suspicious; they looked for the sadness in
her face when she thought herself unnoticed. To such critics she
was in every detail precisely what might be expected in one who
has forfeited all chances of respectful attention, who is left to
herself because she deserves to be left to herself. To those who
knew nothing about her she was merely old-maidish. Her hair grew
again, long and thick, but the brightness of youth had irrevocably
gone from her. Her complexion slowly faded, the tints of the frail
blush rose giving place to the waxen permanence of the lily. At
twenty-eight she looked at least thirty-five.

And the long years began to glide away. Colourless, without salient
features, swift in their cold monotony, the years were like ghosts
of years flitting across a half-lit room into the endless dark
passages that leads to the eternal. Mrs. Bell had said that she
must live down the past, but it seemed that her real task was to
live down the future.

At least thus it all appeared to external observers. Events of one
sort or another were truly happening in the flat all the while.
For instance--as observed by Mrs. Bell--after a time a parrot
arrived, to be petted and fed and cared for. Then Louisa, the
maid-housekeeper, asked permission to keep a cat. Louisa did not
intend to marry; she had established herself in the flat as firmly
as her mistress; she and Miss Verinder understood each other--they
played with the cat in its kitten stage, they made much of the
solemn and probably very aged parrot. Seemingly they were just two
old maids together.

During this period the illustrious name that had been whispered
in Kensington drawing-rooms sounded at intervals loud and clear
on the public tongue. As hitherto in the career of Dyke, he was
alternately lost to view for long stretches of time and lit up by a
blaze of publicity for brief spaces. Throughout the year 1897 those
deserts of Australia hid him completely. Then early in 1898 he was
very much before the world again. His book _Sunshine and Sand_
gave the history of his most recent vicissitudes and successes,
and appearing at a moment when the ultimate confederation of the
Australian Colonies was being widely discussed, the book, as
critics said, was not only more entrancing than any novel, it took
its place as an indispensable volume of reference for all students
of imperial history. Also at some time early in this year 1898
he was in London, being interviewed by newspapers and delivering
a lecture before the Royal Geographical Society. Then the dark
curtain promptly descended upon him once more. He had been sent
to examine the interior of British New Guinea and to explore any
unvisited islands to the east of it; and the newspapers had not
much to say about him for two or three years, except that he was
alive in spite of the insatiable craving of the cannibals with whom
he now consorted. Then came the publication of _Among the Papuans_
in two bulky volumes, which the press welcomed with compliments
similar to those showered upon his previous work. Critics said
that since there could be little doubt that the Crown would cede
its interests in New Guinea to the Commonwealth of Australia as
soon as that federation should be finally constituted, these two
illuminating and compendious volumes of Mr. Dyke’s appeared at a
most opportune hour. Then soon one heard that Mr. Dyke was in the
United States lecturing, and trying to collect money for another
Antarctic voyage, which should start, as he hoped, in 1902, or
at latest in 1903. The lecture tour closed stormily in a pitched
battle with American critics who had thrown doubt on his records of
the Patagonian pigmies and the Andine temples. The noise of this
contest echoed loudly even on our side of the Atlantic.

Thus Miss Verinder was not allowed any true chance to forget the
man who had been so much to her. For her, one must suppose, even
the occasional mention of his name, a mere newspaper reference
to him, should prove stirring to the memory, if not absolutely
upsetting to her peace of mind. And above all, those books of
his--always running into a new edition or being advertised by the
publisher as about to appear in a cheaper form! The earlier ones,
too, got themselves reissued--_First Antarctic Cruise_ (1888); _The
Second Cruise_ (1890); “At all booksellers, uniform with _A Walk in
the Andes_”; and so forth! Perhaps she was reading one or other of
these works and suffering in consequence, when she lay indisposed
behind her shut doors, or suddenly and abruptly disappeared from
the flat altogether on one of her strange lonely excursions.
Louisa, growing older and sterner every year, merely reported
that Miss Verinder was unwell and could see no one; or that Miss
Verinder had left London and it was quite uncertain when she would
return.

Moreover, had Miss Verinder been in any danger of forgetting the
man himself and his more intimate characteristics, she received at
least one sharp reminder.

On a certain winter afternoon his father came to call upon her, by
appointment.

“I was so glad to get your note giving me permission,” said the
elder Mr. Dyke. “It is very kind of you.”

“Oh, not at all,” said Emmie; using, as so often happens when we
feel that an occasion is momentous, the tritest and most simple
form of words. “Do please sit down”; and she indicated that
she wished him to choose the sofa as his seat. Her nerves were
fluttered and her thoughts in some disorder during these first
civilities.

“It is a great pleasure, Miss Verinder, to make your acquaintance.”

“And I,” said Emmie earnestly, “have wanted to know you, Mr. Dyke.
I have wanted it so much--so very much.”

“Thank you. It is good indeed of you to say that. I should have
wished to come long ago--but, well, somehow I did not venture”;
and he had a smile that seemed to shoot like an arrow into Emmie’s
gentle breast and set it throbbing with exquisite pain. Almost, for
that instant, Anthony might have been there smiling at her. “No,
I wished to do so--but one is always afraid of seeming intrusive.
Only when he wrote to me--”

Mr. Dyke sat then upon the sofa, and they began to talk about his
son.

He was a much smaller man than Anthony, very thin and spare, and
yet obviously possessing something of Anthony’s iron strength;
so that, although sixty-four or sixty-five years of age, he gave
one an impression of a person who will go on living for a great
while without ever growing really old. He too had blue eyes and
a straight nose, but one could not imagine this face becoming
hawklike or fierce. He was quite dignified, yet devoid of all
commanding or majestic attributes. His manner, reminding her
of Anthony’s now and then in its deferential courtliness, more
particularly as expressed by bowing the head, was quite that of a
man of the world. And Emmie noticed that his sacred calling was not
indicated by the slightest sign in the clothes he wore. Then as
her nerves steadied themselves, while he went on talking and she
listening, she thought of nothing beyond the one fact that he was
Anthony’s father.

He was telling her about Anthony’s birthplace, their home in
Devonshire, and the time of Anthony’s boyhood. “Endells--that is
the name of our house, you know--quite a small place, but in a way
very charming--to _us_, at least--we all love it. Close to the sea,
you know. Endells--so many places in our part of the world have
a plural name. Abertors--that’s the big place, the show-place.
An old house, ours, you know--and the most delightful old church
close by, on our own ground. I am, you know, what they used to
call ‘a squarson,’” and he smiled again. She could bear it now;
and it was not really Anthony’s smile. It was full of goodness
and kindness, but it had not that warm flood of light as of the
sunshine bursting through splendid dark clouds and making the
whole world happy. “At the time I speak of, I was still doing my
clerical duties. I hadn’t then turned lazy and handed everything
over to a curate. And will you believe it, Miss Verinder? I then
thought that Anthony, when he grew up, would be ordained and
follow in my footsteps. His mother thought so. Poor dear”; and
he sighed. “We lost her before he was fourteen. As a boy he was
religious--unusually religious. But now, I fear--well, you know his
inmost thoughts a great deal better than I do. We won’t speak of
that.”

Then, continuing, he said he felt it would interest her to hear
that as a boy Anthony showed no sign of the adventurous spirit.
“Isn’t it strange, Miss Verinder? But so it is.” He was a dreamy
boy, loving mystical books, with a hankering after magic,
astrology, and spiritualism. He had never been seen to read tales
of travel. Nor was he fond of athletic sports. He did not care for
riding. “You know, there are hounds of course within reach of us.
And sometimes he would follow them on foot, but never on horseback.
Always a prodigious walker.” Then Mr. Dyke laughed gently. “He
would not come in to meals. It worried his poor mother, and our
housekeeper--who had been his nurse--used to say nature never put
a clock or dinner bell inside Master Anthony’s stomach as it does
with other children. He would climb along the cliffs and lie on his
back on some ledge or other, looking at the sky or watching the
seagulls, and dreaming--dreaming hour after hour; the whole day
often, in summer. All one can imagine is that during these long
reveries great purposes were slowly shaping--unknown to himself
perhaps. At any rate not one single word about it did he utter to
me--and we were _friends_, Miss Verinder--a very real affection,
thank God, remained always between us two--I fancy, something more
than is common with fathers and sons.” And Mr. Dyke paused to blow
his nose. “Not one word until he was approaching his nineteenth
birthday. Then he said to me--I was never more astonished in
my life--he said, ‘Father, I can’t stand this any longer. I am
starting for Africa to-morrow.’ Just like that. And he went, you
know.

“The rest--if a father may say so--is history. It is, isn’t it,
Miss Verinder? Now I musn’t tire you by too long a visitation. But
I felt that these little early details would interest you. They are
so little and yet so much. And they should certainly come into his
life when it is written. I think it is a mistake in biographies to
omit all the slight and seemingly trivial details and give one only
the big events. Nothing is trivial in the lives of really great
men.”

Miss Verinder assured him that she had been enthrallingly
interested; and, taking leave, he detained her hand in his for
a moment while he asked if he might call again in a few days’
time before he returned to Devonshire. She was conscious during
these moments of a constraint or uneasiness that he had seemed
to feel even when he was talking to her so gently and kindly. It
had been as if the talk was merely superficial, and that beneath
it there was a communication that he desired to make but could
not. Now it seemed that this had risen close to the surface, and
with her hand in his, she braced herself to meet it. Perhaps that
mental preparation on her side, detected and misunderstood,
was sufficient to check him again; for, without saying anything
further, he went away.

Thinking about this afterwards, Emmie felt that it had spoilt
everything. It was not difficult to find interpretations of a
reticence or shrinking that would check Mr. Dyke’s flow of words
and make him hesitate each time that he approached a fuller
confidence; yet if such thoughts, however natural they might
be, were really in his mind, she did not wish ever to see him
again. If they were not there, then she wished, without doubts or
self-questionings, to enjoy the immense comfort and support that
the sight of his face and the sound of his voice gave to her. She
determined at once to lay the doubt at rest, and when, fulfilling
his promise, he reappeared at the flat, she asked him a very simple
question.

“Mr. Dyke, do you blame me for what I have done?”

“_Blame_ you? Oh, how _could_ I? How can I? Oh, my goodness, no,”
said Mr. Dyke, in visible agitation, and he sprang up from the
sofa and stood looking down at Emmie, who was seated on one of her
lowest chairs. “But I see what you mean. A clergyman? I feared you
might think--That is why I have been so anxious to see you. That is
what I wanted to say--but it was so difficult.” He was stooping,
and he took her hand and raised it to his lips. “To tell you my
gratitude to you for your love of my son. And that I, just as much
as he, can measure the extent of your sacrifice--its nobility and
its completeness.”

The barrier between them falling thus, she was free to take such
comfort from him as he could convey. They sat on the sofa together
now, and patting her hand and calling her his dear Emmeline, he
talked again of Anthony.

That afternoon he told her among other things the story of Dyke’s
miserable, fatal marriage. Although the mother of Dyke’s wife and
her other relations were dreadfully common people, the girl herself
was decently educated and showed a certain refinement inherited
from her father, who had been both a gentleman and a scholar.
Unhappily, she inherited from him also the strain of madness that
in his case had led to violent mania and suicide. Before Dyke ever
saw her, incipient insanity at least had declared itself in the
daughter, and, as was discovered afterwards, her wretched relatives
had been warned by doctors that it would be a monstrous wickedness
to allow her to marry anybody at all. But when the ardent,
impetuous Anthony fell into their hands they made remorselessly
short work of him. He was then only twenty-one, just back from
his first visit to Africa, full of chivalry and altogether devoid
of caution; and to such people as these he would naturally seem a
grand prize. The girl--Mr. Dyke believed--practised no deception,
and indeed was wholeheartedly in love with her splendid wooer.

Three weeks after the wedding she entered an asylum in the
Midlands, and she had remained there ever since. She was incurably
insane--with a sort of dull religious melancholia that flickered
up into mildly homicidal tendencies at intervals. Dyke from the
beginning had taken every possible measure for her comfort and
security. It was a good asylum, and the annual charges were not
light. In order to insure the payment of these, Dyke had invested
money left to him by his mother; so that, whatever happened to him,
the asylum would continue to receive the half-yearly amounts. For
a considerable number of years he had not been allowed to see his
wife--or rather, she had not been allowed to see him; for the sight
of him threw her into a dangerous kind of excitement. But Dyke was
never in England without paying a visit to the asylum. He went down
there, to make certain that she was being properly treated; after
an interview with the doctors, one of the attendants guided him to
some part of the grounds where he could stand unobserved and watch
her as she passed by in charge of her nurse. In this manner he had
seen her many times.

Her mother and the other relations had more or less blackmailed him
as long as they lived, and he had been generous to them in spite of
the wrong they had done him. Now they were all of them dead, except
an aunt--a horrible old woman who from time to time wrote abusive
letters to Anthony and his father.

“A sad case, my dear Emmeline. And I must say I find it difficult
not to condemn the cruelty of a law that refuses to annul such
marriages. I should tell you that my boy tried to obtain release by
appealing to the law courts. Yes, he brought a case--but without
success.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One after another the years glided past. In 1904 Anthony Dyke, the
explorer, was about to do his third Antarctic cruise in command
of an expedition that had been organized for purely scientific
purposes, and with no intention of pushing far south. But
newspapers said that it would be strange if Dyke did not make some
sort of dash and attempt to lower the record that he himself still
held.

Long before this year of 1904 the number of people who condescended
to be aware of Miss Verinder’s existence had largely increased.
After the tea-sellers there had come in due course clergymen or
church lay-helpers; for, however much you may disapprove of a
lady’s former way of life, you cannot be so uncharitable as to
preclude her from herself exercising the virtue of charity; and,
moreover, the acceptance of a donation or subscription commits you
to no real friendliness. Then came a chance acquaintance who had
been warned against her but could not bother about the warning, or
thought that in regard to scandal there ought to be a statute of
limitations; and, adopting this broad-minded view, they even asked
her to dine with them quietly and at short notice--more especially
when they were at their wit’s ends to find a fourth for bridge.
Then she began to be “taken up again,” as they termed it, by a
few of her old friends--the few still remaining in the locality.
Staggered by the countenance given to her by Mrs. Bell, or moved to
pity by their own reflections on her lonely blameless life, they
essayed a smile and nod when they passed her in the street, and,
encouraged by her unresentful courtesy, a little later attacked
Louisa with a packet of their visiting cards.

So the legend of Miss Verinder’s wickedness slowly tended, if
not yet to fade and die, at least to lose its strength and high
colour. Young people yawned and refused to learn when elderly
people narrated the legend for their benefit. “Hot stuff,” was
she, when she was young? But all that must have been a mighty
long time ago. It was as if the house walls absorbed whispers
concerning her past, instead of echoing them as they used to do.
It was as if the varnished front doors and plate glass windows of
the straight, correct roads, conspiring with iron rails and neat
rectangles of grass and gravel in the gardens of the squares,
had now determined, if they could, slowly to obliterate all vivid
recollection of a glaring irregularity. It was as if the whole
monotonously respectable neighbourhood had said to its parasitic
inhabitants, “We never experienced anything of the sort till then.
Let us now try to forget that it ever happened.”

At last her family forgave her, and for form’s sake insisted that
there should be some slight intercourse, although Miss Verinder
herself declined or evaded any resumption of real intimacy. To her
relatives it had become so very awkward to go on cutting her, and
with all the children growing up, to have an aunt that mustn’t be
mentioned. It was far more convenient to know her and name her
again. Margaret Pratt was now the mother of five and putting on
flesh rapidly. But, because of her shortness, she could never hope
to be as big round as Mrs. Verinder. Eustace had married with the
utmost propriety, and his wife in an equally becoming manner had
given him first a female and then a male infant. It was Eustace who
advised a reconciliation with his erring sister, and Mr. Verinder
at once agreed.

Mr. Verinder had been badly shaken by the South African War--a
rebellion, a defiance of authority, that should not have been
called a war at all; during the early reverses he could not sleep
at night, although he doggedly declared at the breakfast table that
he was not anxious and that everything would could right in the
end. He sincerely mourned the death of Queen Victoria, that august
lady who had been as fond of the Albert Hall as he was himself. He
described this great loss as “the breaking of a link.”

Already, in Mr. Verinder’s opinion, his beloved neighbourhood was
changing. He could not disguise from himself that it was not all
that it used to be. That old closely-bound society was breaking
up. The war had shaken things as well as people. New ideas were
creeping in, with a new monarch on the throne; that grand old
British institution, the dinner-party, was threatened by the new
fashion of entertaining at restaurants.

Then soon he began to suffer in health, and submitting to the most
terrific of all possible upheavals, he consented to sell his house
and go to live with Mrs. Verinder at Brighton. Mrs. Verinder had
fallen in love with Brighton, having there found a row of houses
almost exactly like Prince’s Gate--same colour, same porches,
cornice, everything; only smaller, and therefore requiring a less
ample and more easily managed style of household.

From Brighton Mr. Verinder wrote to Emmeline inviting her to
spend Easter with them, saying that Eustace, Margaret, and the
little people would be there, and _all_ of them glad to see her.
He underlined that word _all_; but Emmeline could not accept the
invitation.

It was a comfort to the kindly feeble old man to be able to write
to Emmeline now and then, or to talk about her once in a way
at dinner; and it was an immensely greater comfort, a comfort
always with him, to know that the ancient dreadful affair was so
completely over and done with. To his mind, Emmeline had finally
lived it down. He knew that Dyke had been in England during these
years at least twice, and--again without the aid of detectives--he
had ascertained that Emmeline had not renewed relations with the
man; indeed, had not even attempted to see him. All the time Dyke
was in London the last time, Emmeline had been away somewhere in
the country. She did not return to that little flat of hers until
the man had gone once more. All this Mr. Verinder had learned from
Mrs. Bell, who vouched for the truth; and he admired his daughter’s
fortitude and strength of mind in thus running away to avoid any
possibility of temptation.

A closed chapter. Yes, thank goodness, over and done with.



CHAPTER XII


It was about half-past nine o’clock on a bright crisp morning
in early Spring; the sun shone gaily into Miss Verinder’s
drawing-room, eclipsing the genial red glow of the fire; the
leafless branches of the plane tree tapped against the window
panes; and, although one could not see it, one had a feeling of
there being a blue wind-swept sky with little white clouds racing
giddily above the highest chimney pots. Miss Verinder herself,
seeming if not quite as sunny and bright as the weather, at least
strangely gay and alert, had been in and out of the room two or
three times; while Louisa bustled hither and thither, giving last
touches to the breakfast table that she had set forth between the
sofa and the fire.

Louisa was indeed laying out a lovely breakfast, and her mistress
glanced with pleasure at the honey, the various jams, and the
hot-plate and the kettle, under both of which a lamp burned
cheerfully. Over the back of the sofa were about half-a-dozen
different newspapers. With a smile upon her unusually carmine lips,
Miss Verinder unfolded one of these and read the account of how
Mr. Anthony Dyke had arrived in London yesterday afternoon. This
particular journal stated that the famous explorer appeared to be
in the most robust health and the highest spirits. He would say
little about the ill-fated expedition or the series of mishaps that
had led to the return of the ship and the postponement of her
voyage to another season; but he explained that he would give the
fullest details of results so far achieved in the lecture that he
proposed to deliver shortly. “He left at once for Devonshire, to
pass a few days in complete quiet with his relatives.”

Louisa brought in three silver dishes, a glass jar of marmalade,
a china basket full of apples; but Miss Verinder was thrown into
slight agitation by the discovery that there was still something
wanting to perfect the breakfast. The hot rolls had not arrived.
Louisa, even more distressed and worried by this failure, said the
baker had faithfully promised. “It’s that wretched boy of his who
has played us false”; and Louisa used an odd expression, and using
it laughed in spite of her annoyance. “I’d like to break his bones
for him, I would.”

She had left the hall door ajar at the top of the flight of stairs,
and for about the fifth time she pushed it open and looked down.
There was not a sign either of the boy or the rolls. She went into
her neat little pantry, fuming. Then after a minute she heard a
footstep on the stairs, and, rejoiced that the rolls had come at
last, she called gaily, “Put them down, you imp. And shut the door.”

“What is that?” said a totally unexpected voice.

Next moment Mrs. Bell of Queen’s Gate had passed through the hall
and entered the drawing-room. Miss Verinder, turning, was really
much agitated by the sight of the visitor with Louisa behind her
in the doorway showing a scared face. She made desperate signs to
Louisa, who precipitately sprang away; and kind Mrs. Bell in her
astonishment nearly let fall the large parcel of hot-house grapes
that she was carrying.

Yesterday Mrs. Bell had been refused admittance because of an
indisposition that had overtaken Miss Verinder. This morning, being
out earlier than was customary, she had come to bring the grapes
and to inquire after the state of her cherished invalid. Naturally
she was now amazed to find Miss Verinder up and about, and, as she
said at once, “looking better than I’ve seen you for years.”

Miss Verinder said that she was indeed quite well again. Her slight
illness had entirely passed off.

Then Mrs. Bell noticed the breakfast table, so nicely prepared,
here, in the drawing-room, with silver dishes and cups and plates
for at least two people--yes, with two chairs, one on each side of
it.

Miss Verinder explained that she had a friend staying with her.

“Now that’s very wrong of you,” said Mrs. Bell in good-natured
reproof. “You have struggled up to entertain your friend when you
ought to have remained in bed. I can see now that you are not at
all well, really. You are feverish, I believe--yes, feverish and
shaky. Why did you allow her to come at such a time? Why didn’t you
put her off? You should not have studied her convenience. Who is
she? Do I know her?”

Miss Verinder said “No.”

“Take care of yourself,” said Mrs. Bell, going. Then she paused,
one of her usual kindly ideas having come into her mind. “Listen,
dear. If your friend is on your nerves--you didn’t mention her
name--send her round to me. I’ll take her off your hands for the
day.”

“You are too good, dear Mrs. Bell. But really I wouldn’t think of
it.”

Miss Verinder saw her safely out of the hall, and bolted the door
behind her--that door at the top of the stairs that had been left
open in such a reckless, dangerous, unheard-of fashion by Louisa,
merely because it was early in the morning with nobody about.

“You old goose,” said Miss Verinder to the culprit, as she returned
to the drawing-room. “It’s all right. Mrs. Bell has gone. But that
was a narrow squeak.”

“All right,” said Louisa, loudly repeating the words of her
mistress. “She’s gone.”

And next moment a great big laughing man came into the drawing-room.

“Anthony,” said Miss Verinder, “you’re a very naughty boy to be so
late. Your breakfast is getting cold.”

“Oh, this room,” he cried ecstatically. “This room! Let me look at
it.”

“You saw it last night.”

“But by lamp-light. It’s by daylight that I always see it in my
dreams. I want to feel that I am really in it--awake and not
dreaming. Let me touch things.” And he moved about, putting his
hands softly on pieces of furniture, cautiously picking up delicate
fragile bits of china, admiring them, and putting them down again.

“Tony, your breakfast.”

“Oh, damn the breakfast. Don’t you understand what these moments
are to me?” And he told her for the hundredth time how he carried
with him always the whole of this room in his thoughts--a
picture of it and its minutest details so indelible that thought
instantaneously recreated it. He was verifying the picture now. If
there was anything changed, anything missing, he would certainly
know. “And now let me look at _you_.” He said this with infinite
pride and love. “My girl--my own little girl.” He was holding
her hands apart, as he always did, while these first transports
lasted, so that her arms were opened and she could not push him
from her. “Emmie--my darling.” Emmie, under this attack, was
vainly struggling to maintain her dignified primness of manner;
she uttered bashful remonstrances, hanging her head, laughing and
blushing, but was in rapturous joy all the while. “Angel of my
life”; and suddenly he took possession of her, hugged her, and
smothered her warm face with kisses.

Louisa brought in the tardy rolls while he was doing it, and as if
blind and preoccupied went out again.

“You’re too silly--really too silly,” said Miss Verinder. She had
withdrawn to the bevelled looking-glass in the front of the Queen
Anne bureau and was arranging her hair.

They sat down to breakfast, and she made the tea for him exactly as
she would have made it for Mrs. Bell or the vicar of the parish,
had either been visiting her; but her eyes were bright, and the
colour still glowed in her cheeks. Dyke watched each precise little
movement with a sort of swooning ecstasy. First she warmed the
tea-pot, then she began to load her tiny shovel from the silver
tea-caddy, and as she transferred each shovelfull she demurely
recited the habitual incantation. “One for me; one for you, Tony;
one for the pot--and one for luck. Shall we have one more? Yes, I
think one more for luck. Now the kettle, please.”

“Go on,” cried Dyke, with a roar of delighted laughter. “Say it.”
He wanted the rhymed couplet to finish the unchanging rite, that
foolish rhyme that he himself had taught her. “Say it, Emmie.”

And she said it, quietly and gravely, as if there was nothing
ridiculous about it. “‘For if the water not boiling be, filling
the tea-pot spoils the tea.’ Push back that little bolt under the
kettle. Thank you, dear.”

They spent four or five heavenly days together in the flat, never
issuing from it till after dark, and not then without a preliminary
reconnaissance by Louisa and her report that the coast was clear.
All day long they were perfectly blissful, making up to each other
in endless talk for the vast tracts of time during which neither
could hear the other’s voice. It was during one of these secret
visits that Dyke taught the parrot to say “Look sharp, Louisa.”
Emmie could never have done it without aid.

Under the friendly cloak of darkness they used to take long walks
about the huge town. They had jolly little treats too. Dyke loved
the “moving pictures” from their very first introduction, and Emmie
was devoted to this form of entertainment for the reason that it
afforded her an opportunity of holding Dyke’s hand and squeezing it
while the lights were down. They also attended representations of
the legitimate drama, going to the cheaper seats of unfashionable
theatres on or beyond the four-mile circle; and they found and
cherished the strangest sort of restaurants or cafés far from the
more frequented haunts of well-to-do mankind, where they dined
and supped with the utmost enjoyment. Some of these eating-places
were almost too humble and doubtful, scarcely better than cabmen’s
shelters; for Dyke, fresh from New Guinea or an uninhabited island,
was almost incapable of differentiation. To him, at any rate for
a while, the Ritz Hotel and a refreshment room at an Underground
railway station seemed equally magnificent and luxurious.

Emmie’s favourite restaurant was at least clean and respectable,
a little place kept by Italians in a side street near Hammersmith
Broadway; and thither she guided her illustrious traveller when
he wished to invite a guest to join them at dinner. These guests
were always of the same class, rough simple fellows, generally
colonials, with whom Dyke had sailed the seas or plodded the
earth at some time or other in the past. He had promised to have
an evening with them when the chance came and was anxious not to
break his word. So, Emmie consenting, he sent off a slap-dash line
inviting them to meet him at Spinetti’s.

One night dear old Captain Cairns of the _Mercedaria_ dined with
them there.

“Well, upon my life, Tony, it’s a sight for sore eyes to see you
again,” said Cairns. “And you too, miss.”

He was just as he had been when she first saw him at that
Johnsonian chop-house in the City; wearing a pea-jacket with a
blue shirt collar, and, although so short, seeming excessively
broad and powerful. His stubby beard was perhaps a little greyer,
his big round head balder, and the network of wrinkles on his
sun-burnt cheeks had become more intricate. His weight and solidity
inspired confidence in her just as they had done at their very
first meeting; but Emmie had a premonition that he would certainly
break the fragile cane chair on which he had seated himself, and
gracefully vacating her own place, she manœuvered him to the more
substantial foundations of the velvet-covered bench against the
wall. He sat there, beside Dyke, and beamed at her across the
table.

“Oh, how he did make me laugh about them Papuans. Yes, I can see
the old chap’s going as strong as ever. Meanin’ to have another
bang at the South Pole, isn’t he, miss?” And Captain Cairns’s sense
of humour induced a fit of chuckling. “Him and that Pole! I wrote
and told him he’s like the baby with the cake of soap. He won’t be
happy till he gets it.”

They had a jolly evening.

“Ah well.” Captain Cairns sighed when taking leave. “Here’s my
address, Miss Verinder, if you should have news you’d like to send
me at any time--for he doesn’t answer _my_ letters. Good-night, and
thank you. Those were happy days on the poor old _Mercedaria_.”

“What is she doing now?” asked Emmie.

“She’s broke up”; and Captain Cairns sighed again. “She was a good
ship, she was--in her time. But her time was mostly over, when you
honoured us, miss.”

Then Dyke, laughing, said he had a little tale to tell; and he
insisted that Cairns should sit down again and have another whisky
and soda.

“If so, it must be a small one,” said Cairns. “Really only a spot.”

They sat down and Dyke gleefully narrated how, after saying
good-bye to the _Mercedaria_, they got into a tight place--and Miss
Verinder saved his life by killing a man.

In vain Emmie protested; he would go on.

“It’s too bad of you, Tony. I asked you never to remind me of all
that--never to speak of it to anybody.”

“Only to Cairns. Such a real true pal as old Cairns!”

“Well, I’m blessed,” said Cairns, when he had heard the story; and
he looked at her with the deepest admiration. “That was grit, and
no mistake. Whips out a revolver, and--”

“Mr. Cairns,” said Miss Verinder, pulling on her black suède gloves
and speaking rather primly, “please forget this nonsense. You know
Tony’s way. In order to make out that I did something remarkable,
he is led into exaggerations. Good-night. It has been so pleasant
to see you, and I hope we shall meet again before very long.”

After five or six days spent in this manner Dyke would disappear
from the flat and give himself to the public. There were interviews
in the newspapers; he delivered his lecture, asked for financial
support, visited his publisher, was seen at his club, attended one
or two public dinners. Some time was spent with his father at that
old house called Endells. Then perhaps he was secreted at the flat
again. Then once more he was gone from England; and Miss Verinder,
shopping with Mrs. Bell at Knightsbridge, or taking a walk by
herself in Kensington Gardens, felt that she herself, all that was
real and solid in her, had gone too.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was she who had decided on the necessity of this long-sustained
concealment of their love, and not he. Truly she was not a woman
to shirk consequences--she had proved that handsomely; but not
for nothing had she been born at Prince’s Gate and reared in the
Verinder tradition. She knew her England, which never really
changes, however much people talk of change. She knew that to this
day, just as in the time of Parnell, no public man is allowed to
have an unauthorized intimacy with a person of different sex--in
other words, if he cannot show his wife, he must not show anybody
else. And more especially would this be so in the case of a man
appealing to the public for money to carry on his public work. Had
the fact been discovered, it would have meant an extinguishing cap
(of the requisite size--very big) over the head of Anthony Dyke.

It had been necessary to hide him, and she had hidden him. With
regard to this achievement one may perhaps for a moment consider
how excessively difficult it is for a woman to hide a man in a
life that to all appearances is being conducted on a conventional
pattern, a life that seems open to observation by every curious
person; and one may further remark that of all men Anthony Dyke
was obviously the most difficult to hide, because of his large
proportions, his loud voice, his terrific explosiveness--not to
mention the fact that he was, if not yet as famous as he desired,
at any rate sufficiently so to be a well-known, closely-marked
public character; some one worth following by newspaper reporters,
always remunerative for a chatty interview, and of market value as
a snap-shot, take him how or where you would.

Nevertheless she had done it. If the truth must be owned, since
there was but a single aim to her existence, she had welcomed as
likely to aid her, the very hardships under which she was supposed
to be suffering acutely; such as, the loss of reputation, ostracism
by near relatives, coldness at the hands of friends.

Louisa, the tried and faithful servant, had also been a heaven-sent
gift. But perhaps the real key to the triumphant deception had
been her own unflinching audacity--the bold idea carried out with
a boldness that never faltered. For at the beginning, when people
were naturally most suspicious and keeping a sharp watch for the
man Dyke, not the most suspicious of them all could suspect that
the place to look for him was so outrageously near home as Oratory
Gardens.

She was successful, then, and as time went on the thing grew
easier. At those queer haunts of theirs they scarcely ever met
anybody who knew him, and never anybody who knew her. They had
no accidents; that narrow shave with her solicitous kind-hearted
Mrs. Bell was the closest approach to catastrophe. But on the last
evening of this same visit of Dyke to his native land they had a
really unfortunate encounter.

They were coming along the Brompton Road, past the top of Thurloe
Square, when a small elderly woman caught sight of Dyke in the full
light beneath a lamp-post, and accosted him. He told Miss Verinder
to go on, and stopped to talk to the woman. Miss Verinder, obeying
him, went by herself slowly to the corner of Oratory Gardens and
round it. Then, turning, she strolled back again to meet him. He
was hurrying towards her, waving his arm as if as some kind of
signal, and the woman was following him and calling after him
angrily.

“Straight on, Emmie,” he whispered, taking Miss Verinder’s arm,
“and step out.”

He led her rapidly past the two corners that would have taken them
home, round into Ovington Square, Pont Street, Sloane Street, and
thence by devious twists back to Oratory Gardens; explaining while
they took their sharp bit of exercise that he wished “to shake off
that old devil,” who was by no means to learn where Miss Verinder
resided. When they were safe in the flat he further explained that
the old devil was an aunt of his wife, a dangerous objectionable
person with whom Emmie must never come into contact. He was sorry
that Emmie had made that rather significant turn towards the flat,
but he hoped that it had not been noticed.

But next day, after Dyke had gone, the woman called at the flat,
and, as reported by Louisa, asked who lived there. Louisa refused
to say, and shut the street door in the woman’s face. Then, after
a little while, opening it, she saw the woman come out of the
auctioneer’s office. Either from the auctioneer or somebody else
the woman obtained the information she desired. She was in fact
that connection by marriage whom the elder Mr. Dyke had described
as a pertinacious writer of abusive or blackmailing letters to him
and his son. Soon now she wrote a letter to Miss Verinder.

The last post brought it one night when Emmie was sitting by the
fire and thinking of the man who had gone. Louisa, looking stately
in her black silk dress and apron, laid it on the small table
beside her mistress; and there for a little while it remained
unopened.

The evening had begun with desperate sadness as Emmie lived
again in memory those perfect days, and thought that once more
the joy had fled and life for another merciless stretch of time
could be summed up by the two words, waiting and hoping. She must
get through it somehow, as she had hitherto got through these
dreadful empty intervals, and fortunately he had left her work
to do. Work was always a comfort. Then she thought of his recent
disappointment--the first failure of the scientific expedition--and
of his anxiety that the second attempt should be a complete
success. She felt, although he had not said so, that he was
dissatisfied with the reception given to him in England. Some of
the newspapers had annoyed him by taking the wrong side of the
quarrel with that French explorer Saint-Bertin, had condemned him
for hastiness and overbearingness. She remembered with burning
indignation something really rude that had been said about him
by one newspaper. None of them, as it now seemed to her, had
been as eulogistic as they used to be; they did not recapitulate
sufficiently the magnificent achievements of the past; they dwelt
too much on a temporary set-back.

As much as he himself, she was eager that he should ultimately
attain undying fame. She knew too that he would never settle down
and be quiet until he had reached the goal. And, alas, he was
growing older; the years, however lightly they dealt with him, left
some marks. The time available was not infinite. He himself asked
for luck; and the luck was always against him.

Sitting by the fire, and feeling the natural depression of spirits
caused by the sense of loneliness after companionship, she was
attacked again by a horrible doubt with which more than once she
had been compelled to fight. Was bad luck the only explanation? It
was most horrible to her when, as now for a few moments, she seemed
to hear mocking questions which she disdained to answer, but which
she could not silence. Why always the bad luck? That little trip
of his to the Andes was typical; representing on a small scale the
big adventures of his life. Again and again, if not always, the
tale had been the same. He fitted himself out for an expedition,
plunged into the wilderness, and was heard of no more, until he
emerged starving, with nothing but the shirt on his back. Should
not this make one doubt his powers, and admit that, splendid as he
is, there may be some flaw in his mental equipment--some clumsiness
of thought that, in spite of his brilliant qualities, makes him
less than the truly great; so that he will never really achieve
what he desires? As on previous occasions, she fought with all her
strength against this disloyal and treacherous doubt, and drove it
away to-night perhaps for ever.

It is love that kills doubt of every kind. She thought of the love,
and of that only. These seemingly interminable absences must be
supported with joy and pride as a part of the love itself; far from
spoiling it, they made it what it was, unique and glorious; they
lifted it high above the common bond of any ordinary marriage. She
need not envy any woman who ever lived or think any more fortunate
than she.

There was a smile on her lips now; she folded her hands and half
closed her eyes, as she thought with an immense pride that no woman
ever made a man more completely hers or gave herself to a man so
utterly. He was her lover, whom she loved with a flaming passionate
strength; he was her faithful mate, her partner, so that, as much
as in any business partnership, any _firm_, all that struck at
him struck her also; he was her child too, over whom she yearned
with more than a mother’s tenderness--her wayward noble boy, who
sometimes acted with rashness from sheer nobility of spirit; who
must be thought for, cherished as well as encouraged; who must be
subtly guarded and secretly aided by the poor weak half of him that
watched, waited, hoped at this fireside while his other splendid
half battled magnificently in the frozen darkness twelve thousand
miles away. Still preserving that characteristic attitude, with
meekly folded hands, she thought thus rhapsodically of her love,
and the glory of it--yes, the wonder and the glory of it.

Then she opened the letter, which tried to put everything in a
different light. Cruelly abusive, it produced the effect upon her
of something vile and incongruous and stupid, seen suddenly in a
beautiful or sacred place--as, shall one say? mud-stained feet upon
a marble floor or a bundle of filthy rags dropped by a passer-by
on the steps of a cathedral altar. The writer signed herself “Mrs.
Janet Kent”; she headed the letter with the name of a midland town;
and she began by saying that she had just paid a visit to “the
Assylam” and seen her niece, Mrs. Dyke.

“...the lawful wife of the man who keaps you. And I say it is a
shame for a wicked kept woman to keap my niece in prison as she is.
Miss Verinder, she is no more mad than I am, and would not be if
proparly treated with a house of her own, and those who love her to
take the care as I have told him I am ready to do. But no he says.
Notwithstanding I say for a miss like you he can spend all the
money required to make his own wife comfatable with me. You ought
to be exposed for what you are.”

And lapsing from the abusive to the blackmailing habit, the writer
threw out a not ambiguous hint that it would be wise to avoid
exposure by prompt generosity.

“Miss Verinder, waiting your answer, I am, Yours truely, Mrs.
Janet Kent.”

This letter remaining unanswered, Emmie soon received another
of the same sort; and after that more letters until at last
one came with very direct threats in it. Writing to Dyke, Miss
Verinder refrained from speaking of the annoyance to which she
was subjected. Why worry him? It would be time enough to tell him
when she had him safe home again. But she went now for advice to a
solicitor--not to Messrs. Williams, the family solicitors, but to
some one whose name she had chanced to read of in a newspaper as
connected with criminal proceedings.

This gentleman appeared to be as clever as he was sympathetic;
surprisingly few words enabled him to grasp the whole matter, but
he told Emmie that hers was one of those cases in which the law
unfortunately could be of little assistance to the injured party.
He pointed out that the only way of bringing the horrid old woman
to book would be by police court proceedings, and it did not seem
to him they could very well face the publicity that such action
would entail. Indeed there could be little doubt that the old
woman understood this quite well. It was probably her perfect
understanding of it that made her so bold and impudent. He thought
that perhaps the best chance would be for him to write her a
“frightening” letter.

He wrote his letter, but Mrs. Janet Kent was not frightened; and
his final regretful advice was that in his opinion it would be
worth while giving her a little money “to shut her mouth.” He
said he would do it for his client, adding that of course if the
abominable old wretch were paid once she would probably have to be
paid again. The pride of Miss Verinder revolted from the advice;
but she saw no escape from following it.

In this manner the last living relative of Dyke’s wife became a
humble pensioner on the bounty of the lady whom he was precluded
from marrying.

He knew nothing about it, and perhaps would never know. He was
busy. The good ship _Commonwealth_ with all the scientific
gentlemen on board was skirting the northernmost fringe of the
pack-ice. The last letter that Emmie received from him for many
many months contained a photograph taken on deck just before they
left New Zealand--Anthony, looking enormous, in the middle, Mr.
Wedgwood, the physicist, on his right; Mr. Cleeve, the biologist,
and Mr. Hamilton, the geologist, on his left; Lieutenant Barry and
the rest of the officers with their names written underneath them,
and the crew unnamed. She put it away carefully with her collection
of similar pictures.

And she went on with her work. He had left her all the materials
for the short volume that was to appear later on under the title
of _The Third Cruise_. All those studies of hers, the classes in
logic and rhetoric and composition, at which Mrs. Bell and others
smiled indulgently or contemptuously, had been undertaken in order
to render herself capable of helping him with his books. Dyke,
as often happens with authors of his character, had no notion of
style or of construction. When he first honoured her with the task
of knocking his stuff into shape for publication and she found
herself confronted with the mass of manuscript, the muddle and
tangle of it threw her into such despair that she, the assistant,
called for assistance, and the publisher sent her a real literary
person to put the opening chapters into literary form. It was
the book called _Sand and Sunshine_, and the expert strongly
objected to Dyke’s initial sentences, condemning them as naïve
and childish. “Sand and sunshine,” Dyke had begun, “are very nice
things in their way, but you can’t eat them.” She herself did not
much care for this turn of phrase, and she connived at very large
modifications. But when the proofs of those early chapters were
sent out to Dyke, then eleven thousand miles away, he almost went
mad with indignation; so that the explosion of his wrath, even
at that great distance, made the flat in Oratory Gardens tremble
and shake. He said he would break the bones of the literary man.
He cursed his impertinence, for tampering with “a document.” She
finished the book herself; and then, and afterwards, Dyke allowed
her to take any liberties she pleased. He would accept anything
from that hand--in fact he never appeared to observe that she
had changed things; and she always, with great tact, minimised
what she had done. “A word here and there, Anthony, and of course
the punctuation; but my effort is simply to make your meaning
clear--never to alter it in the slightest degree.”

Each year becoming more skilled, she altered just as she chose,
anything or everything--except the titles of the books. Those she
dared not touch. They were idiosyncratic. A certain arrogance or
assumption in the sound of them had meaning for her, although the
rest of the world might not understand. They linked themselves
in her mind with that other mannerism, the habit of speaking of
himself in the third person--“Dyke will be heard of again; Anthony
Dyke is not conscious of failure,” and so on; speaking as he
wished the universe to speak of him. Thus the bare simplicity
of these titles--The First Cruise, The Second Cruise, The Third
Cruise--meant that they were chosen for posterity rather than for
the passing hour. In future generations when people saw these
words, The First Cruise, they would be in no doubt as to whose
cruise it was. They would all know that the cruises made by Dyke
were the only ones that had really counted in the century-long
siege of the South Pole.

So skilled was she now that she saw _The Third Cruise_ through
the press without submitting the proofs to anybody, but not
without those fears and agonies from which all very conscientious
people suffer when they feel that they are engaged upon a task of
supreme importance. She had nightmare dreams about the maps and
the illustrations, dreaming once that three photographs of herself
and Dyke, taken years ago at Buenos Ayres, had crept into the
binding; and she woke early in the morning after she passed the
last revise with a cold certainty that she herself had made some
such abominable slip as saying seven hundred degrees South Latitude
instead of seventy degrees. But everything was correct. She had
done her work well, and the book was so favourably received that
she soon had a fine batch of press-cuttings laid by for Dyke’s
gratification on his return.

That fourth cruise was a long business. Throughout one year she
thought he was coming home, and waited full of hope. In that year
she did not see him; he never came. Then during the next year she
saw him once--for half an hour.

In a letter despatched from New Zealand he told her what she had
already learnt by reading the telegraphic news. The fourth cruise
had not been very successful. Those scientific gentlemen had
squabbled among themselves and Dyke had squabbled with all of
them; at a certain point he wanted to let science go hang and push
boldly south, while each of the others wanted special facilities
for his own line of research--ocean-sounding, magnetic observation,
dredging, scraping, altitude-measuring, or whatever it might be.
Dyke, making his southern dash, soon got the ship tight-locked;
provisions ran scarce, scurvy appeared, one of the scientists
died; then when the ice set them free and he reluctantly turned
northward, they encountered terrible weather. Moss scraped off
rocks, stuff dredged up from the bottom of the sea, and other
treasures, were lost; the dead man’s diary was destroyed by salt
water; the homeward voyage of the battered ship became a chapter of
accidents.

Dyke wrote with the best attempt at cheerfulness that can be made
by a sick man who is heavily bruised in spirit. He was ill--he had
to confess it--and as soon as the ship reached Brisbane they would
put him into a hospital. He said he knew he would get well again
directly, but, oh, how he wished that he had his little Emmie there
to console him.

Of course he had not meant that she was to go to him; but she
sent off a cable message and started next day. At Marseilles she
overtook and caught a steamer of the Orient Line. Many people on
the vessel noticed her and several talked with her--that old maid
who used to sit out on deck knitting, always knitting, looking up
with a pensive smile sometimes while her fingers continued to move
the needles busily.

At Brisbane she found him strong and well, entirely recovered,
but in the very act of departing for New Guinea, whither he was
being sent again on government work. Delay was impossible. They had
thirty minutes together in an hotel drawing-room.

Half-an-hour. It was enough--if there could be no more. It was
worth all the trouble. She came back to England at once, by a
steamer of the P. & O. Line--sitting on deck, knitting, the old
maid to whom people spoke because of her loneliness and her gentle
smile.



CHAPTER XIII


The two books _New Guinea Revisited_ and _A Further Investigation_
give the three years narrative of Dyke’s exploratory work in the
mountains, with his study of the various native races, and his
adventures among the lesser islands. These matters, as his father
said, belong to history; and there is also historical record of
his having been at home, or very near home, in the year 1908.
It was in this year that the lingering quarrel between him and
Saint-Bertin, the French explorer, found its culmination in a
duel “_à outrance_,” which took place somewhere on the outskirts
of Paris. Saint-Bertin was the challenger and in regard to the
combat itself there were many stories afloat in both countries;
the accepted English version being that four shots were exchanged
and that Dyke fired his two straight into the air, although he had
received a scrape on the thigh from the enemy’s first round. The
Frenchmen were undecided whether to take this as a further insult
or a _beau geste_, until, as it was alleged, Dyke said the whole
thing was damned nonsense and he would continue to shoot at the
sky all the afternoon, since, however much he disliked Monsieur
de Saint-Bertin personally, he refused to risk injuring France by
incapacitating one of her bravest sons. If indeed he said anything
of the sort, one may suppose that he did so in his grandest manner,
with a Spanish bow or two and with all sincerity of spirit. For,
whatever accusations might be justly levelled against Anthony Dyke
for arrogance or overbearingness, no one could charge him with a
lack of magnanimity. At any rate his late foe was satisfied by his
demeanour--a satisfaction proved by Saint-Bertin’s dedicating his
next book to Dyke.

Emmie was satisfied too, when the packet arrived at the flat,
forwarded by Dyke’s publishers, and she read the dedication:
“I offer myself the signal honour”--all in the most beautiful
French--“of inscribing on this page the name of a good comrade,
a courteous gentleman, a knight who has wandered from the age
of chivalry to teach in this epoch of low ambitions and sordid
concurrences the lesson that men may be rivals, and yet friends,
of different fatherland but one brotherhood, united to death and
beyond it by mutual admiration, esteem, respect, homage”; and so
on and so forth. Miss Verinder, thrilling to the lavish praise of
her knight errant, liked the beginning of the inscription better
than the end. It seemed to her that the Frenchman, winding up, put
himself too much on a level with Dyke.

She was doing more and more for him. All his correspondence was
sent to her by the bank or the publishers and she dealt with it
as best she could. Among these business people she was known as
his authorised representative, his “attorney.” She had long ago
bought a tin deed box for the safe keeping of his papers, and in
course of time she bought another of the same shape and size. These
boxes stood in her bedroom, disguised by brocade covers that she
had made and embroidered with her own patient hands; and she was
never happier than when they were pulled forward from the wall,
uncovered, showing the white letters of the name on the shining
black enamel--“Anthony Dyke, Esq., C.M.G., etc., etc.” On her
knees before them, tidying their always tidy contents, docketing
and stringing the various packets, she had wonderful sensations of
power and importance--as if she had been rearranging Dyke’s life
itself instead of its scribbled records, setting it in order for
him, making it easier and more comfortable.

Amongst the neatly folded packets there was one with the label,
“Mrs. Anthony Dyke”; and to this Emmie added every six months a
receipted account from the asylum in the midlands--Upperslade Park,
as they called it. The sight of that address on the stamped piece
of paper always gave her a little shock of pain or discomfort;
she hated that particular bundle in the box, and used to shrink
involuntarily from the task of opening it and retying it. Her hands
grew slow as she touched it, and she lapsed into a waking dream
while she thought of the great irrevocable fact, and of what his
life, their life, might have been if the fact had not been there.

Since his banking account came entirely into her charge and duty
compelled her to examine the passbook with close attention, she had
made the discovery that another person beyond herself was taking
liberties. As well as subscribing rather large sums anonymously to
the funds of those various expeditions and thereby to a certain
extent “dipping her capital,” as her old friend and adviser, the
late Mr. Williams, would have described it, she had also paid
smaller sums directly to Anthony’s account at the bank. She began
this practise in fear and trembling. But Anthony never detected
that he was being thus mysteriously aided. He never counted his
money, knowing always that he had not enough, and devoting always
every penny he possessed to the needs of a work insufficiently
supported by the State and the people. Now she discovered that old
Mr. Dyke also fed balances or reduced overdrafts from time to time
by unacknowledged contributions.

Her own father was now dead, but in old Dyke she had found another
father--a father who understood her. There was nothing that she
need keep back from him, nothing that she might not discuss with
him. She knew the house called Endells better than she had known
her home in Prince’s Gate, and felt more truly at home there.
Everything about it was old, settled, full of time-honoured repose;
when she and Louisa arrived upon a visit, the old servants, the
old walls, the dear quaint old furniture itself welcomed them.
Neighbours thought she was a relative of the house; the people of
the village smiled at her, and remembered her as somehow belonging
to Endells although not regularly living there. She might have
lived there, had she wished, in all the time of Anthony’s absences,
but she continued to be merely a frequent visitor. And not once did
she go there with the son and future owner of the house. A delicacy
that all three felt but never spoke of debarred her from that joy.
The precious days that Anthony gave to Endells were lost to her
entirely.

At the side of the house there was a bit of walled garden where
she used to sit with Mr. Dyke. The ground sloped down slightly, so
that the tops of the side walls were not horizontal but slanting,
and you looked upward to the house with its modest terrace, broad
eaves, and latticed windows; sheltered from the wind, the little
place was such a sun-trap that you could sit there even on winter
days. But it was prettiest and most delightful in early summer. If
Emmie, walking along the ugly Brompton Road, cared to shut her eyes
and think of it, she could always see it--those flint walls with
the odd pent-house roof to protect the blossoming peach trees, the
borders of bright flowers, the trim grass path and stone steps;
dark green ilex trees against a blue sky, and a glimpse of one of
the old servants moving to and fro behind the open casements. Over
her head the sweet sea breeze was blowing, bees were humming in
the fragrant lavender, and perhaps the bells of the church began
to sound behind the pointed gables and huge chimney stacks at the
end of the house. Seeing and feeling it thus imaginatively, she had
a consciousness always of comfort and rest; the kindly friendly
little spot of earth had sunshine in it that filled and warmed her
heart. Its walls were buttresses against which she could lean when
she felt her weakness and longed for supporting strength.

Here, during her last visit, she had unburdened her mind of the
distress caused by the treatment of Dyke in newspapers and reviews.
As his publicity agent as well as his man of business, she was
pained by a change of tone that she found it difficult to define;
it was not that press writers--at any rate those of the better
sort--were ever disrespectful, but they were too often oblivious.
Mr. Dyke, sitting beside her on the garden bench, patted her hand
and told her not to fret.

The fact was there had come to Anthony Dyke what comes to all
who have built a reputation by startling the public, as soon as
they cease to startle. Moreover, people were busy saying about
others all that for so long they had said about him. The many new
names demanded loud-voiced recognition--Nansen, Jackson, Scott,
Shackleton, and others.

Reeling off the new names, writers merely touched on the old
names in parentheses--“nor must we forget the pioneer work done
by Anthony Dyke”--or “such men as Bruce, de Gerlache, and Dyke.”
They spoke of him as “the veteran explorer”; “still active, unless
we are mistaken,” and so on. One hateful rag, using the newly
introduced phrase, even spoke of him as “a back number.” And
several times the list-makers forgot him altogether; his name was
omitted from their roll of honour. Then Emmie, with her facile pen,
was compelled herself to write “A Correction,” indignantly asking
for space to point out that Mr. Anthony Dyke by piercing the vale
of mystery in the year 1888 had opened the southern path which
all others had since then followed; or that it appeared strangely
ungrateful when speaking of Antarctic explorers not to mention that
Mr. Anthony Dyke had held the Farthest South record for fourteen
years.

But his father said all this was of no consequence. It was an
experience through which the greatest men invariably passed.
Matters would right themselves. And he reminded Emmie of the
splendid solidification of Anthony’s earlier work, of the
proof during recent years of all that had aroused question or
doubt--those pigmies, the sacred remains, everything. Each year
the foundations of his fame were being rendered firmer by the
continually enhancing value of his discoveries, and the edifice
raised thereon would stand lofty and secure ages after all these
scribbling worms had returned to the dust from which they came.

“Dear Mr. Dyke,” said Emmie, “you are always so wise. You always
are able to make me see things again in their proper proportions.
Yes, I remember what Tony once said. Justice is done in the end.”

They were fond of each other, these two, bound close by their
fondness for that other one. The friendly village folk liked to see
them in church together using the same hymn-book; or on the cliff
path, the old gentleman leaning on the lady’s arm.

He was glad of this assistance sometimes; for he had not borne
out that promise of the man who will never grow older. After his
seventy-third birthday he began to age rapidly; and although he
still preserved an outward aspect of alertness and carried his thin
frame erectly, he had become frail. His walks were restricted; at
each visit Emmie noticed a diminution of their range. A certain
bench on the cliff path that they used to pass swingingly was
now his farthest goal, and he was glad to sit and rest before
turning homeward. They sat there one Sunday morning, high above
the many-coloured sea and the dark rocks, and he spoke to her of
religion.

“Emmie dear, it is good of you to go to church with me.”

“I love it,” she said. And this was true.

“Tell me,” he said. “Was it Anthony who took your religious faith
from you?”

“Oh, Mr. Dyke!” She gave a little cry of surprise and distress. “Of
course not. Tony and I haven’t discussed sacred matters for ever so
long.”

“But you don’t believe--I mean, as we church people--do you, dear?”

Emmie made a fluttering movement of her gloved hands, then folded
them on her lap, and with puckered brows looked across the sea to
the faint silver line of the horizon. “It would be wicked of me to
pretend. I’ll tell you what I believe.” But what did she believe?
It was not easy to say, although she spoke with absolute sincerity.
She told him that all her faith in the orthodox Christian doctrine
had gone from her so gradually--and she must add so easily--that
she scarce knew how it went or when it was gone finally. She
thought--now that she considered it--that association with a mind
as bold as his son’s had perhaps had its part in rendering her old
submissive faith impossible. But the loss of orthodoxy had not made
her a materialist--oh, far from that. She firmly believed in some
supreme and beneficent force that ruled the spiritual universe.
That, she thought, was his son’s belief also. And she wound up with
words to the effect that it would be most terrible to her if she
might not go on hoping there would be some kind of after life in
which she and Anthony could clasp impalpable hands and exchange the
phantom equivalent of kisses.

“I see--I understand,” said Mr. Dyke gently; and he got up from
the bench. “Perhaps very few people could say more nowadays. I
don’t know. I never judge. It is all a mystery--but I am too old to
change, myself. Shall we toddle back to our roast beef? If we’re
late Hannah will scold us again. Thank you, dear”; and he took her
arm.

He said he was old, and he looked old; she noticed then, more
clearly than before, the uncertain footsteps, the violent yet
feeble effort, the moving fragility of age.

Why should she be surprised? Time was standing still for nobody.
The blondness of comfortable Mrs. Bell of Queen’s Gate had gone.
She had lost that appearance of an expensive court card, she had
been shuffled from the pack or had become a queen dowager; she was
out of breath when she got to the top of Emmie’s steep staircase,
and she went regularly to Homburg or Harrogate for the waters. When
she gave parties her fine big rooms were thronged with another
generation, who asked leave to push the valuable furniture on one
side in order to dance, and then didn’t dance, but romped in a
thing they called “the Boston.”

Wherever Emmie turned her large mild eyes, she could see the
changes wrought by unstationary time. It was becoming dangerous
to cross the Brompton Road because of the buzzing motor cars,
which travelled faster than the motor ’buses. The tube railway
had been opened. Men were flying in the air and going in boats
below the surface of the water; members of the female aristocracy
were dining in low necks at the Carlton Hotel; Mr. Lloyd George
was a responsible cabinet minister. What would Mr. Verinder have
thought and said? In Exhibition Road one met well-to-do young men
smoking pipes, wearing preposterous knickerbockers, and carrying
golf clubs; young ladies rode astride past the windows of Prince’s
Gate; only the will of Queen Alexandra kept mechanically propelled
traffic out of Hyde Park itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the golden summer of 1909 she had the wanderer with her for a
long while.

She knew that he was coming, but had not been prepared for his
actual advent. It was after luncheon, the room full of sunlight,
and she sat in a corner busily typewriting; with a tray of papers
on a table at her elbow and slips of printers’ proofs lying on the
floor by her feet. Louisa shouted in the passage, and when Emmie
heard his voice she jumped up, knocking down the tray and its
papers as she did so. She nearly sent the typewriting machine after
the tray as she sprang forward to meet him at the opened door. Then
something brought her to a dead stop.

He was grey. His beautiful dark hair had lost its black
lustrousness; it was the dull colour of a grey silk dress. She gave
a little shiver, and then took his hand and looked into his face as
if not noticing any difference.

“Emmie! Let me look at you.”

As always, he held her arms apart before drawing her to him,
studied her with adoring eyes; and she knew without the possibility
of doubt that he could not or would not see the slightest change in
her. So far as she was concerned, she need never fear the years or
their marks; always he would see not what she was really, but the
girl that she had once been.

Soon they laughed together at the new colour of his hair, and Emmie
said it was an improvement. It gave him greater dignity. He would
look very handsome in the portrait that a famous artist was going
to paint. Truly the grey hair did not make him look any older;
although now fifty-one he was wonderfully, almost incredibly young;
sometimes making her and Louisa feel, as they had felt long ago,
that they were hiding in the flat an overgrown schoolboy and not
a middle-aged public character. He chaffed and teased Louisa; he
took the parrot out of its cage and could not get it back again;
he spent one whole day in teaching the new white cat to jump from
between his knees over his clasped hands.

He was cheerful and gay; yet beneath the high spirits Emmie
detected his occasional sadness. After running down to Devonshire
for a few days he returned to her; and never had he been so
entirely sweet or more absolutely devoted; and yet, nevertheless,
she understood that he was restless in mind and, except for the
comfort of their love, unhappy. It would pass--as all signs of
weakness passed from him--but she knew that he was feeling the
smart of disappointment. It was more than his own failure in the
fourth cruise, it was the knowledge that his province had been
invaded. That ocean which he had come to consider as belonging
to Anthony Dyke had been attacked by so many others. The hidden
mystery of its continent was imminently threatened not by him,
Dyke, but by the new men.

He was still generous in his praise, trying hard to conceal the
touch of bitterness caused by personal considerations. “Nansen is
a splendid fellow. Take it from me, Emmie, he deserves all that is
said of him--and they have made a deuce of a fuss, haven’t they?
He has been lucky, of course--devilish lucky. Mark my words; the
North Pole will be reached”; and walking about the room, he paused
to make a widely magnanimous gesture, as though giving away the
North Pole. After all, the North Pole was nothing to him; he had
never marked it down; anybody might have it--that is, anybody who
deserved it. “They are wonderful people, the Norwegians, Emmie.
I suppose you know they are fitting out the Fram for a third
voyage. Yes, Roald Amundsen will be in command--topping chap,
Amundsen--he’ll get there.” Then she saw him wince as he went on to
speak again of things relating to the other Pole, the South Pole,
_his_ Pole. “That was a tremendous performance of Shackleton’s,
Emmie. Great. Lucky beggar, Shackleton. Scott too. I take off my
hat to Scott.” And he sighed. “Scott ought to be invincible--sent
out as they mean to send him--with all that money behind him.
You remember what Sir Clements Markham said about Antarctic
exploration--he wanted a hundred and fifty thousand pounds to send
a man in proper style.” Then, after looking ruefully at Emmie,
he laughed and snapped his fingers. “Poor old Dyke never scraped
together a tenth part of that sum, did he?”

When she suggested that they should hire a motor-car, cross the
channel, and go for a tour in Brittany, he eagerly embraced her
idea, vowing that it was an inspiration. Those three weeks on
wheels were idyllic--rest in motion, quiet introspective joy with a
changing outward panorama of pleasant images. He seemed perfectly
happy, scarcely once mentioning the South Pole; and she, watching
him as a mother watches a son who has been crossed in love, hoped
that he was not secretly grieving.

As soon as they were back in London he grew restless. He would sit
looking at her, pretending to listen to her, and then suddenly go
and ask Louisa to see if the coast was clear, because he wanted a
walk. He walked by himself on these occasions, fast and furiously,
“blowing off steam,” as he explained to Emmie. At other times
he would stand by the window, with his hands in his pockets,
motionless for an hour and more, staring down through the foliage
of the plane tree as if trying to look through the whole globe and
see what was happening down there at the antipodes.

The news had come of the Japanese Antarctic expedition; the
newspapers were always talking of Captain Scott’s preparations;
there were vague rumours of other carefully planned attacks. It
seemed that all the world was “chipping in,” and that poor old
Dyke’s white garden was to have its ice flowers snatched, as if by
marauding gangs of mischievous children.

There was talk also, well maintained, of Amundsen and the Fram; and
again Emmie observed that Dyke could speak of the gallant Norwegian
without wincing. Amundsen--topping fellow--was for the North. More
power to him. Only, confound these Japanese, and the rest of them,
southward bound.

Beyond the restlessness there was irritability. Often he was
irritable with his Emmie, rudely impatient at least once when she
was not quick enough to grasp the point of intricate explanations
concerning the various plans of these other adventurers; and he
snapped at faithful Louisa--a thing he had never done till now.
Miss Verinder bore with him, showed always an infinite patience.
She could interpret all his emotions; even if she got muddled now
and then in latitudes and longitudes. He was suffering in its
acutest form the nostalgic longing that is felt by the disabled
fox-hunting squire when he has to lie in bed and listen to the
huntsman’s voice and horn while hounds are drawing the home
coverts. “Oh, damn the doctor. Get my boots, and saddle any old
crock that’s left in the stable. I’m going.”

He began to tell her of what he would do if he “made a bid for it”
himself, at this eleventh hour. “Do you follow me, Emmie? There
are more ways of killing a dog than by choking him with butter.”
He said that if he could put his hands on so small a sum as ten
thousand pounds, he would join the race--even now. “Listen, Emmie.
These are my notions of a chance to get ahead of them all--even
now.” She listened meekly and attentively to his interminable
harangues; she watched him as he paced to and fro, still talking,
quite late at night sometimes, long after they ought to have been
asleep; and she never blinked an eye. Nor did she demur, unless
conscience obliged her to question his too sanguine calculations.

Then at last he said some words that wounded her most dreadfully.

“Upon my soul, Emmie, you seem as if you could never understand
anything.”

She uttered one of her faint little cries; but he went on, not
seeing that he had caused her pain. He went on until, pausing for
breath, he noticed that her lips were quivering, while her hands
agitated themselves queerly; and she said in a strained voice that
she knew very well how she failed him for want of intelligence, but
she was always trying to improve herself.

“_You_ fail me, what!” He gave a roar as of a stricken beast,
and dropped on his knees, with his arms round her, imploring
forgiveness. “My darling little Emmie--my guardian angel. Oh, I
ought to be kicked from here to Penzance. I didn’t mean it. On my
honour I never meant it. Yet, clumsy lout that I am, I said it.
Forgive me, oh, forgive me.”

And she, stroking his bowed head, her face shining, said that it
was “quite all right”; never could she really doubt his indulgence
towards her, his loving kindness.

But it was long before she was able to comfort him or make him
forget the offence of which he had been guilty; remaining on his
knees he continued to apologise.

“Emmie, you’re such an angel--you can make allowances and find
excuses. It’s only that I am so cursedly miserable about all this.
If you think, it is devilish bad luck, isn’t it? To be kicked up
to the equator as I’ve been--to be cooked in that damned Turkish
bath of a New Guinea--to be kept there these years--how many?--with
the very colour bleached out of my hair and the marrow grilling to
nothing in my bones--while your Newnesses and your Harmsworths,
your admirals and cabinet ministers, your lords and fine ladies,
have all been putting their heads together and opening their purse
strings--yes, and your kings and mikados too--to fit out and give
carte blanche to any one who has the cheek to tell ’em he knows the
way to the South Pole! And I’m not as young as I used to be, Emmie.
I don’t feel it myself, but the others say it; they throw it in my
face. I’d show them, if I had the chance--now. In another ten years
it may be too late and I may be really done for then.”

A few days after this she told him that the balance of his banking
account would very soon amount to half the sum he had mentioned; he
could rely on there being five thousand pounds to his credit. He
would scarcely believe it possible. Had the money fallen out of the
sky? She said that the cheap editions of his books had been selling
marvellously well, and reminded him that royalties for six months
were due from the publishers.

He asked no more questions. He was frowningly absorbed, he rumpled
his grey hair and cogitated; then he laughed gaily. “Five
thousand! It’s a nucleus. If only I could add to it somehow.”

It was of course futile for him to think of taking the hat round
here in England; the public had thrown their very last threepenny
bits into the hats of those other beggars. Then suddenly he said
he would try America. “Emmie, there’s a fellow out there who
believes in me--a prince of good fellows--I stayed with him at his
house on Long Island--lovely place, like Hampton Court Palace on a
small scale--and he’s rolling in money. What the devil’s his name?
Porter? Potter? James--yes, James L. Porter! That’s it. By Jove,
I’ll see if I can touch him.”

Immediately he cabled to Mr. Porter of New York, asking him to
put up five thousand pounds. He made the message as eloquent as
possible, not sparing words or considering rates, and he grinned
while he read it with mock emphasis to Emmie. He was a schoolboy
again, full of life and impudence; the gun-running Dyke of ancient
days. “Now, old girl, if my pal’s a sportsman--as I think he
is--he’ll do it.”

He despatched his cablegram early in the morning and fidgeted all
day, calculating the difference of time between London and New
York, walking about the rooms of the flat.

At six in the evening the reply came. Mr. James L. Porter had
cabled the money.

Dyke was almost delirious. He kissed Louisa on both cheeks,
he waltzed with Miss Verinder, he executed a _pas seul_ and
made the cat do a record jump. Then he sang pæans in honour
of the Yanks--those sportsmen over the pond--with a chorus of
disparagement for the citizens of his native land. “Is there an
Englishman alive who would have sent that answer? They don’t waste
time _talking_ over there, they do. What was it Tennyson said? Our
old England will go down in twaddle--or was it babble?--at last.
And I scarcely knew the fellow. Any obligation was on my side, not
his. He entertained me royally. Bravo, Porter. What’s the matter
with James L. P.? _He’s_ all right.”

At once he sketched his plan. There could be no difficulty in
collecting staunch comrades; he knew dozens of likely men. Of
course everything must be done cheaply. He would go to Greenland
at once to get dogs; he would buy a whaler, fit her out as best he
could, and go down light--a scratch lot, certainly. “But with luck,
Emmie”; and his eyes flashed. “Get there before Captain Scott, eh?
Why not?”

They went out to dinner, after he had sent a dozen telegrams, and
he was on fire with happy excitement.

“I shall write to Scott and tell him I’m chipping in. That’s only
common courtesy. Although, hang it, no one asks _my_ permission
when _they_ chip in.”

       *       *       *       *       *

He had gone. She knew that the thing was hopeless, and yet she
hoped. The letters that he sent her were not reassuring; with his
scratch lot he would run dreadful risks and have no real chance of
success, but still she went on hoping. It is too hard merely to
wait and not to hope at all.

Although her financial position would have been described by the
late Mr. Verinder as distinctly unsound and she was drifting from
the smooth waters of safe investment towards the maelstrom of
sheer speculation, she sometimes blamed herself for not having
encroached on her already reduced capital to a greater extent.
It was horrible to her to think for a moment or two that if she
and J. L. Porter had given him more money, his perils might have
been less and his prospects brighter. But, no, if she had put her
contribution at a higher figure than five thousand pounds it would
have aroused his suspicion, and then he would have refused to take
anything at all. Moreover, as she consoled herself by reflecting,
it would not have been _right_ to give him more; she _must_ think
of the future; she _must_ be decently provided against the day
when his travels would be over. When that day came he would not of
course have a shilling of his own; for whatever he possessed or
earned or inherited he would certainly spend on his work before he
ceased working. Then, if they were both poor, what would happen to
them?

The time passed very slowly. Although he wrote to her she had lost
touch with him; after the beginning of 1910 no exchange of letters
was possible. In March he had begun to work his way southwards,
and later he wrote to her from South American ports. She sent all
her letters to Tasmania. At Hobart, as he said, he would do a lot
of refitting and much valuable time would be consumed. His letters
showed that he was happy and hopeful; and she too hoped.

Then in September of this year strange news burst upon the world
and threw her into a state of white-hot indignation. Amundsen with
the Fram had arrived at Madeira; instead of going north Amundsen
was going south. He was going to the Antarctic. It seemed to Miss
Verinder, quite unreasonably, a piece of dreadful treachery. This
commander, all the while that his preparations are being made
has permitted every civilized country to suppose that his aim
is northward; he sails amid their good wishes; people stand with
their eyes turned northward, thinking of him, peering after him.
And suddenly they are told to turn round and look the other way. He
has gone in the opposite direction, secretly stealing a march on
innocent trustful rivals.[1]

Miss Verinder held forth on the subject at an afternoon party given
by Mrs. Bell in Queen’s Gate that same day. It was a quiet informal
party, because people still wore mourning for King Edward and many
of Mrs. Bell’s acquaintance had not yet returned to London. Emmie,
standing by the buffet and being assisted to tea and cake by two
attentive clergymen, looked very nice in her black dress, with a
large picture hat, and some ermine round her slim neck. Unusually
animated, a spot of wrathful pink on each cheek, she spoke in
scathing terms, and almost choked once as she bit the rather dry
cake. Indeed she was throbbing with anger, although her voice,
while it emitted bitterness, was still modulated and gentle of
tone. She said in effect that it was disgraceful of Mr. Amundsen to
chip. Captain Scott must be utterly disgusted.

“Who is Captain Scott?” asked Mrs. Bell. “Do I know him, Emmeline?”

Other ladies gathered round, telling each other that Miss Verinder
was speaking of the South Pole and all these explorers. “She is
always so well informed.”

And Emmie, firm and explanatory, said that such a “chip-in” as
Amundsen’s simply isn’t done. She knew as a fact that in such cases
warning was always given. And continuing, she boldly named the
name. It was not only Captain Scott who would be upset, there were
the Japanese to think of--and the private expedition that was being
conducted by Mr. Anthony Dyke.

“Oh, yes,” said somebody. “Dyke. Yes, to be sure. Dyke’s one of the
most famous of them all, isn’t he?”

Mrs. Bell had moved on and was talking to a middle-aged couple who
had just arrived at the party; but if she had heard Dyke’s name
mentioned, it would scarcely have aroused any recollection of the
annoyance and trouble that he had once caused. That old scandal was
so completely dead that the most vindictive enemy could not now
have revived it, and nothing perhaps better proved the esteem in
which Miss Verinder was held by all these people than Mrs. Bell’s
manner when presently introducing two of them to her. They were the
late arrivals, a Mr. and Mrs. Parker, of Ennismore Gardens. They
themselves had craved the introduction, and they said their nurse
had told them of the very charming way in which Miss Verinder had
spoken one morning to their little girl Mildred on her pony outside
the front door. They thanked Miss Verinder for her kindness.

Miss Verinder said she deserved no thanks; she was very fond of
children; and she thought their daughter such an intelligent,
pretty little thing.

“Well, she really is,” said Mrs. Parker, enormously gratified; and
she and Mr. Parker together related that the child was good as
well as attractive; a quite extraordinarily obedient child--“so
different from her brothers”--seeming to take the sweetest kind of
pleasure in doing exactly as she was bid.

Miss Verinder said that was very nice indeed, and then she rather
startled both Parkers by asking, “What will you do with her when
she is grown up? I suppose you mean to give her some sort of
profession?”

“Oh, come,” said Mr. Parker, with a foolish chuckle, “I shouldn’t
have expected you of all people, Miss Verinder, to say that.”

“No,” said Mrs. Parker. “Surely _you’re_ not modern? You don’t
believe in letting girls leave home, and make careers for
themselves, and all that?”

“No, no, Miss Verinder is not serious,” said Mr. Parker, smiling
and nodding his head. “In spite of all the talk nowadays,
the best career for young ladies is just what it always
was--_marriage_! Unless, of course,” he added hastily, “a young
lady, to the surprise of her friends and admirers, declines--ah,
refuses--herself deciding that she prefers--possessing the
cultivated and informed type of mind that does not seek--or perhaps
I should say, does not brook--domestic ties”; and he embarrassed
himself badly in his efforts to convey the polite opinion that,
although Miss Verinder was an old maid, she might have married
many, many times had she wished to do so. Then he wound up in
regard to his own daughter by indicating that when Mildred was old
enough, say, in ten years time, he would select for her a suitable
husband, somebody that her parents both trusted and liked, and the
docile, obedient Mildred would take him and say thank-you.

“It has been such a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” said Mrs.
Parker; “and we should be so very glad if you would visit us.
Ennismore Gardens, you know.”

Miss Verinder, in a somewhat absent-minded style, said she would be
pleased to avail herself of this invitation some time or other.

“_Any_ time,” said Mrs. Parker. “Of course, we know how much you
are sought after.”

The year 1911 was the longest that Emmie had as yet experienced.
The last of Dyke’s letters told her that he expected to cross the
Antarctic Circle in January, and then the immense silence began.
She spent a couple of months at least at Endells with his father,
who had been ill; and she and the old man encouraged each other to
hope for almost impossible things. Notwithstanding insufficiency
of preparation, unsuitability of vessel, doubtful allegiance of
subordinates, “Why should not Tony pull it off this time?” Heavily
handicapped, yes, but with such inexhaustible power in him himself.
Emmie, hoping more and more, was ready to abandon painfully
acquired knowledge, and to believe that only luck was needed.
All luck really. The luck must turn in his favour--he had always
said so. Moreover, who should venture to assign any limit to the
probable in the case of such a man? He was so miraculous.

Having no literary work on hand, she went about among her
neighbours much more than in the past. She liked and sympathised
with the youthful generation. She listened to music with Mrs. Bell,
and was always ready to join a bridge table even at the shortest
notice. She played the game accurately and boldly; and one evening,
when she dined at the Parkers and the young people prevailed on Mr.
Parker to countenance poker, she astonished everybody by her manner
of sharing in this more reckless amusement. There was a gentle
inscrutability about Miss Verinder at poker that proved deadly to
ardent and excited adolescence. One of the young men, cleaned out,
stood dolefully behind her chair and afterwards reported that he
saw her do a bluff big enough to lift the roof. He said it had
given him palpitations of the heart to watch her.

But all these slight interests, the concerts, the cards, the
tea-parties, as it were dancing and flickering on the surface of
her existence, were as nothing; the true Miss Verinder was far
otherwise engaged. The world of Parkers and Bells, and tradesmen
and cabdrivers, never once met her. Or if for a moment anyone
caught a glimpse of her, she had flown away next moment and was
back with her wandering man. So that one may truly say of her that
often, as she passed along the broad smooth pavement round the
corner into Prince Consort Road, she was in reality breathlessly
clambering over hummocks of ice; or that when in the quiet flat she
put down a saucer of milk for Bijou the cat, that small useless
creature had swelled for her into the largest kind of Weddell seal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The silence remained unbroken, over Christmas and on into the new
year of 1912. One morning in March, Mrs. Bell asked her to come to
tea next day, the eighth of the month. It was a date that Emmie
never afterwards forgot.

She said she was sorry; she had an engagement.

“Oh, what a pity. I’m expecting the Alderleys and I wanted you to
know them. Can’t you come in afterwards?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” said Miss Verinder. “I’m going out of town
to-morrow for the whole day.”

“How annoying! Well then, the day after?”

“Yes, I shall be delighted.”

“Good,” said Mrs. Bell. “I shall put off the Alderleys. Hope you’ll
have an enjoyable day.”

Miss Verinder’s engagement was to visit a certain town in the
Midlands, and truly she looked forward to it with no pleasurable
anticipations, but rather with a sinking of the heart. She was
going to Upperslade Park only because she felt that it was her duty
to go there. The asylum authorities had sent a very troublesome
letter to Dyke, and she as his representative must attend to it
properly. They asked for a large increase of the annual payment,
on the ground of the enhancement of cost of everything since the
time long ago when the bargain was made. They said that a bargain
was a bargain, and they “would not go back on it”; but they could
not possibly continue to maintain Mrs. Dyke as well as in the
past, giving her the greatest comfort, the best food, and the
closest attendance, at a dead loss. If, then, it was impossible to
adopt their suggestion, they would go on taking care of her quite
adequately, but much less luxuriously. There was a possibility,
of course, that her health would suffer from the deprivation
of comforts to which she had grown accustomed. Farther, they
pointed out that although the asylum was to some extent a public
institution enjoying an endowment, they had no power to devote a
penny of these funds to the benefit of the private paying patients.

Emmie travelled by the North-Western Railway, and it was one of
those days with which March can surprise and disgust even those
who remember the evil notoriety of the month. Dark skies, rain,
and wind travelled with her all the way. She drove through the
ugly town, seeing nothing but wet pavements and tramcars; through
outskirts of factories and smoking chimneys, and on to a broad
long road skirted on either side by villas and gardens. Her
cabman stopped at an iron gateway in a high brick wall. This was
Upperslade Park. A man came out of a lodge and spoke to her at the
cab window. Then he unlocked the gate, and the cab drove in.

Beneath leafless dripping trees, across wide lawns, she saw the
place itself vaguely, a mass of buildings with wet slate roofs
and towers that stretched and sprawled gigantic. It was like a
workhouse, a gaol, like anything sinister and dark that depresses
the mind, at the mere sight of it, with painful associations and
impotent regrets.

She was received by a doctor in an office that opened from a large
and totally bare hall, and she said that she wished to have her
interview with the patient before entering into any discussion of
business matters.

“All right,” said the doctor. “Yes, she’ll have had her dinner”;
and he called for an attendant. “I’ll tell Dr. Wenham that you’d
like a chat with him afterwards.”

Emmie was ushered then to a waiting-room or parlour, where, they
said, Mrs. Dyke would presently be sent to her. It was a lofty
room, with high windows through which one had a view of the driving
rain, the sodden lawns, and a broad smoke-stained gravel path. Some
of those unreadable richly-bound books that used to be displayed
years ago in hotel sitting-rooms lay on highly-polished circular
tables. Instead of a fireplace there was a large white earthenware
stove. Some horsehair and walnut chairs stood in a row against one
wall, and on each side of the stove there was a straight-backed
early-Victorian sofa covered with faded green rep.

Emmie waited for what seemed a long time. She was looking out of a
window when the patient and a woman nurse entered the room.

“How do you do, Mrs. Dyke?” And they shook hands.

Immediately after this conventional greeting, Mrs. Dyke seated
herself on one of the rep-covered sofas and laid upon her knees a
largish Bible that she had been carrying under her arm. Emmie went
and sat beside her on the sofa. She was a little middle-aged woman,
dressed very neatly in a blue serge gown of no particular fashion;
her hair, parted in the middle, was drawn to the back of the head
and there rolled into a compact ball; her manner was precise and
formal, and she spoke in measured tones, as if weighing her words
and attaching importance, even finality, to some of them. It seemed
to Emmie that only her eyes were insane. Their colour was brown,
with little specks of amber, and they had the sort of shining
intensity that is to be observed in the eyes of children during
high fever. Then Emmie noticed that there was something strange
about her hands. The left one, the one with the wedding ring, had
marks of severe wounds on the knuckles, and it appeared to be
stiffened. Emmie thought at once--with a queer feeling of already
having heard of this--that it had been banged through a window pane
during a fit of violence.

“Insufficient organisation and want of method is usually to blame,”
Mrs. Dyke was saying, in her precise way. She had begun talking
as soon as she sat down, as if resuming a conversation with Emmie
that had just been interrupted. “Then praying time is naturally
forgotten. Prayers get omitted at the appointed moment, and one
rarely if ever squares the account and gets the tally right. But
in this book,” and she softly patted the Bible, “all such things
are noted. Did I say _this_ book? Pardon me--in a very much larger
book, kept by the recording angel, who neither sleeps nor accepts
drugs to make him sleep.”

The nurse was standing at a little distance, smiling
good-naturedly; and she now asked Emmie if she should remain or go
outside the door.

Emmie said she would like to be left alone with Mrs. Dyke.

“All right,” said the nurse, and she nodded significantly. “I shall
be just outside the door--and I’ll leave it ajar. Call, if you want
me, Miss Verinder.”

“Nurse Gale,” said Mrs. Dyke, quietly but authoritatively, “keep an
eye on the clock. Don’t let the proper moment slip by.”

“Oh, do drop your rubbish,” said the nurse, laughing
good-humouredly, as she went out into the corridor.

Mrs. Dyke continued to speak of religious matters, until, in a
pause, Emmie tried to change the subject.

“Now shall we talk a little about yourself? I want to know if you
are comfortable here.”

Mrs. Dyke, after a meditative silence, said, “No, I’m always
hungry.”

Emmie, shocked and pained, asked: “Don’t they give you enough to
eat?”

“Too much,” said Mrs. Dyke mysteriously. “But I daren’t eat it.
They want to poison me”; and she added after another pause that,
having defeated this plot for a considerable number of years, she
hoped still to get the better of them.

Then it was as if of a sudden she had been moved by some strange
glimmer of intelligence or intuition with regard to Emmie. She
looked at her searchingly with a changed expression in the eyes,
and shrinking from her on the sofa, spoke loudly. “Are you an enemy
or a friend?”

“A friend,” said Emmie.

“Of course she is,” said the nurse briskly. At the sound of the
raised voice she had immediately come into the room. “And a very
kind friend, too--to have come all the way from London to see you.”

“Who is it that has done me a great wrong?” said Mrs. Dyke, still
scrutinising Emmie. “Aunt Janet told me. Is it you? Have you
wronged me?”

“Oh, what stuff and nonsense,” said the nurse. “Wronged you indeed!
That’s the silly way she goes on.”

Emmie, perturbed but brave, got Nurse Gale to leave them alone
once more. Then she took the injured hand and very gently held it
between both her hands.

“Mrs. Dyke, don’t fear me; don’t suspect me of evil intentions. I
mean well.”

“So be it,” said Mrs. Dyke, drawing nearer on the sofa and allowing
her stiff cold hand to lie passive and imprisoned. “In the fullest
confidence.” That evanescent aspect of normality had gone; she
looked at Emmie with mad eyes, and spoke in a tone that was
vibratingly intense. “I want my husband--dead or alive. If he is
dead, I wish the body embalmed and put in a glass case. If he is
alive--send him to the devil and choke him. Look here. A stitch
in time saves nine. I put my husband in the bed--a colossal bed
that I had built to hold him. Room for five or six other people--of
ordinary size. So it’s quite absurd to pretend that there wasn’t
room in it for me. Very well. When I woke he wasn’t there. I hunted
for him high and low. He was under the bed laughing at me, or up
the chimney. ‘Be calm,’ they all said. ‘That is the watchword
henceforth--Be calm.’ ‘Well, I am calm, Aunt Janet,’ I said. ‘Could
anyone be calmer? I am quite reasonable and obeying orders. But I
simply say I want my husband.’

“But not a bit--they dragged me into the carriage. They flogged
those poor horses--” And suddenly her manner changed to a sort of
exalted fervour. “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to
the Holy Ghost. Awake--throw off the chains. For on that day there
shall be a great light shining from the high mountains. I am the
resurrection and the life. Whoso believeth in Me--If you don’t
mind, I’ll say my prayers. I forgot them again”; and she sank to
her knees and laid her face upon the seat of the sofa. “Please ask
them not to disturb me.” And she began to murmur monotonously.

Miss Verinder waited a little while, and then went to the door and
beckoned the nurse. She asked her not to disturb Mrs. Dyke.

“But she’ll go on like that till midnight.”

“As a favour to me. Give her a quarter of an hour.” Emmie tipped
the nurse. “You promise, don’t you?”

Emmie, wrung with pity, stood at the door looking back into the
room. That was the last sight and sound--the poor creature kneeling
in the unchanged attitude and the toneless murmur of the prayer.

Miss Verinder during her interview with the head of the asylum was
very business-like. She arranged to pay what was necessary now
and whatever might be necessary in the future, should a further
increase be required.

Thus oddly she began to contribute to the comfort and maintenance
of the unhappy soul whose place in the outer world she had taken.
She had not hesitated to answer the call. Nor did there for a
moment pass through her mind even the vaguely formulated thought
that she was taking every possible means to keep Mrs. Dyke
alive, when the death of Mrs. Dyke might have relieved her of an
embarrassment which, although it had grown slight, still existed.

She was very tired when she reached Euston about seven in the
evening, and, since she was alone and without luggage, the porters
neglected her in the scramble on the arrival platform, and she was
unable to get a cab. Advised to try for one on the departure side,
she went through a subway, up into the great hall among hurrying
people; and suddenly heard two men saying words that made her heart
leap and sent the blood rushing to her head. Hastily turning, she
moved towards the bookstall; and there in bright strong light, she
saw the same words that she had just heard. All round the front of
the stall they were repeated in enormous lettering, on the bills of
the evening papers; for to-night no other item of news was worth
displaying--“South Pole Reached”; “Discovery of South Pole”; “South
Pole.”

In those few moments, while she bought a paper and opened it, she
believed that it was her man. Her man--the blood beat at her
temples, her lungs were full of fire, and a wild passionate joy
possessed her. It seemed as if the station walls were falling,
the lofty roof bursting open and floating away; vistas showed
themselves, filled with vast pressing throngs; triumphant music
swelled in her ears, and the voice of whole nations shouting echoed
and re-echoed the loved name. Dyke, Dyke, Dyke! He had done it.
Nothing could stop him, he had beaten them all--her man. She held
the paper high to read the message.

It was Amundsen.

She refolded the paper and looked at the large clock above the
door. Ten minutes past seven. When she got safely into her bedroom
at the flat the pretty little Sèvres clock on the chimney-piece
showed that it was now twenty minutes to eleven; and, except that
she had been walking, she never knew why it had taken her so long
to get home from Euston.

“What’s the matter with you?” asked Louisa, helping to put her to
bed. And she spoke again, in the grumblingly affectionate tone that
trusted faithful old servants often permit to themselves. “You
don’t take proper care. You overdo it--and then you make yourself
ill, like this.”

“I am quite all right,” said Emmie. “But I have had a rather
agitating day”; and she turned her face to the wall.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] NOTE. Readers will of course understand that the author is
not accusing this great traveller, nor hinting the faintest
disparagement of his quietly matured plans. Miss Verinder’s
indignation is logically baseless. It is merely the characteristic
of her extreme partisanship.



CHAPTER XIV


In due course the stories of the various expeditions arrived. Each
had done nobly good work, but in the splendour of the achievement
of Amundsen and Scott all else paled to insignificance. National
sorrow for the death of its glorious representative made England
at first almost impatient of listening to the voices of those who
remained alive. Dyke, it seemed, had performed valuable services
to science--he had cleared up a good deal; although behind the
illustrious two, he had crossed their tracks, and he had also
struck into the Japanese and the Germans. But who now could care
about discoveries of mountain ranges, charting of coast-lines, or
correction of surmises as to land and water? The praise he received
in the British press was pitifully small; and one American paper
was cruel enough to say that “Comic relief had been given to the
tragic drama by the antics of elderly Dyke, who had been fooling
around all the time like the clown of the Antarctic Circus.”

He was in England during the summer of 1914; a man forgotten, not
given a single newspaper interview, not once bidden to a public
dinner. The birthday list of honours was announced in advance as
including recognition of all who of late years had served the
state usefully or ornamentally; yet neither in forecasts of those
to be thus honoured nor in the list itself was the name of Dyke
mentioned. He did not say a word to indicate that he even noticed
this neglect. Emmie, however, thinking she understood what he must
necessarily feel, took him away from London into the country, where
he could no longer hear the noise and fuss about recognition and
national gratitude.

They stayed at a farmhouse on Dartmoor, and they were very happy;
but she had wronged him when she supposed that there was now any
bitterness of disappointment in his mind. Alone with him between
the sky and the heather, she became aware of a subtle inward
change. He was never by any chance irritable. He was calmer, more
dignified, whether he spoke of the past or the future.

Yes, as she knew, he had irrevocably lost what had been the
hope of his life. Dimly she began to guess that it was the very
completeness of the loss that, after the first shock, had brought a
new tranquillity of spirit. The game with all its excitements was
over, and he experienced a sensation of enforced rest. But truly
it was something more and better than this. It was perhaps as near
to obliteration of self as the most magnanimous men may reach when
they see good work accomplished and measure the extent of the good
work that still remains to be done.

She did not really understand until she heard him paying tribute
to the memory of Captain Scott; and in her admiration and delight
there went from her then the last twinges of the pain that had been
caused by her own disappointment. This Anthony that she worshipped
and reverenced for every word he said was a nobler and a bigger man
than the Dyke who might have been--the Dyke who might have come
home amid the plaudits of the world, to drop his laurel wreaths at
her feet.

He was lying among the heather, his head resting on his elbow, and
a hand playing with the tiny crimson bells; while Emmie with her
holland parasol made a screen to keep the sun off them both. An
injury to the head inflicted by a tumble on shipboard had left a
slight deafness, and because of it he sometimes unconsciously spoke
louder than was necessary. Now his voice rang out very strong in
the light, pure air; but they were quite alone, and indeed Emmie
would not have minded if all the world had heard what he said.

“You will see it written--it is being written already--that
Scott’s noble gallant heart was broken by his failure to get there
first--that it was the sight of the Norwegian flag flying over the
tent that really killed him, and not the hardship and fatigues.
Emmie, that’s a wicked thing to write. It’s a wicked poor-spirited
thing for anyone to believe. Scott was far, far above all that. You
remember I wrote to him to say I was going?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I never had an answer to my letter. I’m sure he sent me an
answer, only it missed me. I never got it. Amundsen telegraphed to
him too.”

“Did Mr. Amundsen telegraph to him?” said Emmie, flushing. “I was
not aware of it. I fear I--”

“Scott’s answer would have been the same to both of us. I know it
as surely as if I had heard him say it or had read it in his hand.
Scott would have said, ‘You or I or the other fellow, what does
it matter, so that the thing is done?’ I am so sure that, when I
was rather down in the dumps about myself, I took it as a message
from the dead, and it steadied me, Emmie--it steadied me at once.
As soon as I can, I shall go back there to carry on the work. I
consider it a sacred duty that we Englishmen owe to his memory;
and while there’s a kick left in me I’ll be true to it. If I can’t
get anyone to trust me with the command, I’m ready to serve under
anybody else--any Englishman--as second in command, if they think
me good enough;--as third mate, or cook, if that’s the best job
they think I’m worth.”

       *       *       *       *       *

For some reason or other he was going to North China when the
outbreak of war stopped him. The four-years agony had begun. He
served first as a sailor, then as a soldier; and it may be said at
once that Emmie was never less anxious about him than at this time,
for, although the war of course had its risks, they seemed so much
smaller than those of his ordinary life.

But she had anxieties of another kind--about money. Fortunately,
with exploration at a standstill, she was given a breathing space;
in fact, she was in such a mess financially that she could not
anyhow have assisted the good cause by secret donations. For some
while she had been gambling. There was no other word for it--and
her very respectable stockbrokers used the word freely.

“My dear Miss Verinder,” said Mr. Burnett, the stockbroker. “I must
really warn you against this sort of thing. It is not investment at
all; it is speculation. It is sheer gambling.”

Ignoring his advice, she bought some oil shares and lost her money.
She had been impelled to make this venture by a hint concerning the
future of oil that had fallen casually from the lips of Anthony.
Another philosophic reflection of his led her into copper; and this
commodity also played her false.

“What did I tell you?” said Mr. Burnett. “Why _will_ you jeopardise
your position in this manner. It isn’t as if you were not well-off.”

Miss Verinder demurely replied that, although originally well-off,
her expenses had increased, and for certain reasons she would be
pleased to add to her income.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” cried Mr. Burnett, almost writhing in his
altruistic despair. “How often have I heard people like you
say exactly what you have just said! In this very room, Miss
Verinder--clients who really ought to know better”; and he gave
her a severe little lecture on her recent speech, which, he said,
was absolutely typical in the foolishness of its underlying ideas.
Widows and spinsters, living out of the world, knowing nothing of
business, with no man to control them, invariably talk in that
silly manner before they fall into the most frightful pitfalls.

But this incorrigible spinster went on with her bad practices,
buying this and that queer thing, and once, to the astonishment
and annoyance of Mr. Burnett, securing a little profit. That made
her worse than ever, and she soon went right down all among the
pitfalls.

“Now what do you intend?” said the stockbroker, speaking very
gravely of the catastrophe. “Are you going on, or are you going to
stop?”

“I scarcely know how to answer,” said Emmie, after a silence. “I
have dropped so much that it almost seems as if I couldn’t _afford_
to stop.”

Mr. Burnett writhed despairingly. Then nodding his head, and
pointed his finger at her, he said, “Miss Verinder, may I tell you
a story?”

“Oh, please do,” said Emmie. “I should be so glad if you would.”

“A client of ours was bitten with this mania--for mania it is;
although, mind you, there was more excuse for her, because it
was in peace-time, and not when the whole world has gone upside
down and from day to day one cannot make the wildest guess as to
what the value of anything will be to-morrow. She was not only a
client but a relative--my own cousin--Adela Burnett--so I knew
all her circumstances. She too was an old--Suffice it to say that
she was the unmarried daughter of my uncle John, who had left
her quite a good little property. Really a jolly little place in
Sussex--perhaps three hundred acres, not more--and I don’t know
how many feet above the sea--_The Mount_, they called it--not that
the name matters. But there she was--don’t you see?--surrounded
with comfort--quite able to play the lady bountiful in a small
way--respected by everybody. The first doubtful order she brought
to me--the very first, Miss Verinder”--and he shook his finger
impressively--“I said, ‘Adela, stop it.’ But did she listen to me?
No. It was nothing to her that my firm is one of the oldest in the
City of London and that her own cousin is its senior partner. She
would sooner act on the advice of the local doctor, or the curate,
or the wife of the master of hounds, than listen to anything our
firm could tell her. Well, I warned her for the second time. And
what do you think she did? What, Miss Verinder, do you think she
did?”

“I can’t imagine,” said Miss Verinder, feebly.

“She removed her business to another firm.”

“Oh, what a shame!” said Emmie, with sympathetic indignation. “Oh,
I think that was mean of her. I promise never to do anything like
that.”

Mr. Burnett writhed again. It seemed that Miss Verinder was missing
the whole point of the story. As he hastened to explain, it was
not the loss of his commission but the ruin of his cousin that he
deplored.

“Yes, she ruined herself. And where is she now? Where, Miss
Verinder, is she now?”

“Where is she, Mr. Burnett?”

“Living in one room--in a wretched road not far from Clapham
Common. Pigging it in one single room--subsisting as best she may
on a voluntary allowance made to her by--her blood relations”; and
for a moment Mr. Burnett looked modest, as though imploring that no
compliments should be paid with regard to the generosity of Adela’s
family. Then he became more impressive than ever. “To this she has
reduced herself by Stock Exchange gambling. Think of it. Here you
have a delicately nurtured lady, no longer young, accustomed to be
waited on by a highly-trained domestic staff, now cooking her own
meals in a bed-sitting-room. One room, Miss Verinder. Just think of
it.”

Miss Verinder thought of it. The accommodation would be hopelessly
inadequate in her case. Three rooms was the very least she could do
with--one for herself, one for Louisa, and a spare one for Tony.

Should she go on or stop? With the cost of life leaping upward,
with a humble invalid pensioner called Aunt Janet still on her
hands, with further obligations to an unhappy prisoner in the
midlands whose expenses had again risen, with an income tax
threatening to absorb half her diminished dividends, she looked
at the future in trepidation and saw it full of difficulties and
dangers. She shook with dread as she thought that the time might
come when she would not be able to maintain this beloved flat just
as it had always been. Oh, for a _coup_, for a stroke of luck that
would bring security! During long hours of feverish wakeful nights
she asked herself that question. Should she go on or stop?

She went on. Perhaps it is impossible to consort for a number
of years with an adventurer and yet not catch the adventurous
spirit; or to force oneself to think boldly in regard to a few
matters without acquiring the habit of bold thinking in regard to
all matters. And her pulses had been stirred by what seemed to
be another hint from her oracle. Although the submarine menace
was as yet nothing more than a menace, Dyke foretold the ultimate
scarcity of shipping; and writing to her from a mine-sweeper in the
Mediterranean, he said he believed that anybody now could make a
certain fortune by getting hold of ships, no matter how old they
were, and selling them again later. “No doubt,” he added, “a lot of
artful dodgers are doing it already.”

A fortnight after receiving this letter, Miss Verinder was
established at the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. She had with her as
travelling companion Mr. Cairns, late captain of the _Mercedaria_;
and he and she, passing here and there unnoticed among the war
crowd at the big hotel, were exceedingly busy--so busy, in fact,
that she had no spare moments for reviving sentimental memories of
her only previous visit to this great maritime city.

Cairns, although so much older now than then, still gave one the
same impression of solidity and trustworthiness. He still loved
his joke, but the years had made him a little asthmatic and his
laughter was apt to end in a fit of coughing. Emmie, taking tender
care of him, made him give another turn of the muffler round his
neck as they rowed up the river one morning and met the sharp
winter’s breeze on their faces. In the rowboat with them were two
shabby-looking elderly men that Cairns had produced after searching
among his seafaring and commercial acquaintance. These queer
associates were Mr. Gann, a tall, mournful man, and Mr. Rice, who
was stout and jovial; and by Cairns’s arrangement they and Emmie
had entered into a little partnership for the purpose of buying
an iron steamer named the _Marian II._, this vessel being one of
three that a panic-stricken owner desired to shuffle off his hands.
To-day they were going over her for a last look round, before
taking the plunge.

“I don’t like being mixed up in business with a woman,” Mr. Gann
had said sadly, after his first introduction to Emmie’s pale face,
charming graceful manner, and fashionable London costume. “Always
lands you in more than you bargained for.”

“My experience too,” said Rice.

But Cairns had reassured them, and, as it were, thrown them into
Emmie’s arms.

“My lads,” said Cairns, “don’t you worry about her being a woman.
Take it from me, she has more grit than half a dozen ordinary men.”

Now they were beginning to think that Cairns was right.

Truly she was wonderful, ducking under a wet hawser that caught
one of her partners as the boat approached the wharf alongside
which lay _Marian II._, climbing slippery steps, and crossing a
rickety gangway to get on board. Yet it would have been impossible
to imagine anybody who appeared more incongruous to the business
and the scene. In the bright cold sunshine the ship seemed a
melancholy ruin, full of rust and grime, with the air of forlorn
abandonment proper to a thing created for men’s use but deserted
by all mankind; and Emmie, dressed in her fur coat, with her veil
neatly tied under her narrow chin and her chamois leather gloves
being blackened by each bit of wood or metal that they touched, was
like a lady going over a house that she thinks of taking for a term
of years. As she walked about with Cairns and the caretaker, now on
the rusting decks, now in the gloomy depths, she asked a multitude
of questions, all charmingly unprofessional and yet all full of
common-sense.

“Can the machinery be put in working order? Are there no leaks? Is
she _sound_, Captain Cairns? I think nothing of appearances--no one
cares now;--but is she really watertight and seaworthy?”

“Yes, miss,” said Captain Cairns. “The three ships are all right.
You may take my word for it.”

“But this _is_ the best of the three, isn’t she?”

“Yes, I think she is. She’s the best-looking, anyhow.”

Nothing tired Miss Verinder, and she took nothing for granted.
Although they were only concerned with the _Marian II._, she
insisted on being rowed up the river a little further, to see the
other two steamers that belonged to the same owner. One of these,
the _Osprey_, was out in the stream, black and forbidding, with the
water racing past the faded paint beneath her load-line. The third
one, the _Anemone_, was literally on the mud.

“Is her back broken?” asked Emmie.

“Good Lord, no,” said Cairns. “She’s right enough. Get her
reconditioned, and no one would recognize her.”

Mr. Gann and Mr. Rice were both suffering from the cold, and both
weary of the excursion. At their request the boat was turned and
the party made its way back to Liverpool.

Miss Verinder was more wonderful still at the final meeting with
the timorous owner and his agent. They all sat round a carved oak
table in a luxurious private sitting-room at the hotel; but, as
the manager had not been able to allow them a fire, Miss Verinder
retained her fur wraps and the gentlemen their overcoats. She took
no part in a lengthy struggle with regard to the price they were to
pay. Cairns and the agent grew heated in a contest of praise and
disparagement. Mr. Gann became sadder and more sad. Mr. Rice at
last told Mr. Jones, the owner, that to ask twelve thousand pounds
for a rotten old tub like the _Marian II._ was high-seas piracy;
and Mr. Jones said that unless this word was immediately withdrawn
he would break off the negotiation. To show that he was in earnest,
he pushed back his chair and put on his hat.

“Ladies present, kindly remember,” said Cairns.

“Oh, please don’t mind me,” said Miss Verinder, sweetly. Then
she went and rang an electric bell while the others continued to
wrangle.

A waiter brought, not inopportunely, a tray with sandwiches,
biscuits, whisky, soda water; and, at Miss Verinder’s request, the
gentlemen consented to take light refreshment.

Then she sat at the table again, and smiled deprecatingly at Mr.
Jones.

“Will you allow me to speak quite frankly, Mr. Jones?”

Mr. Jones, with his mouth full of biscuit, signified assent; and
Emmie startled him and her allies by a quiet but entirely damaging
attack upon the _Marian II._ She said that if Mr. Jones was fond of
_Marian II._ and wanted to keep her, there was no more to be said.
But if he really wished to sell the ship, she must confess that the
price he was asking struck her as quite ridiculous. She admitted
that _Marian II._ was the best of the bunch. “Oh, yes, certainly.
As to the other two--” and she gave a little shiver, as if upset
by the mere recollection of their state. One of them, she went on
demurely, was to her mind little better than a derelict, and the
other one gave her an impression of being about to sink at its
moorings.

“Nothing of the sort,” said Mr. Jones.

“Well, that was my impression,” said Emmie. “I don’t profess to
be an expert. But I can assure you, Mr. Jones, we are here to do
business. We _want_ to do business. Can’t we make a deal of it,
anyhow?”

“Not on your terms. I’d sooner go to government. You forget there’s
government always ready to buy.”

“Oh, Mr. Jones!” said Emmie, as if shocked by this pretence. “I
understand that the government officials have inspected your ships
at least a dozen times.”

“They may change their minds.”

“Never. If the government had wanted them they would have taken
them long ago.”

“That’s so,” said Cairns, firmly.

“Nevertheless, Mr. Jones,” said Emmie, resuming a gentle
argumentative tone, “suppose we were to make you a sporting bid for
the three vessels?”

“No, no,” said her partners, astounded; and Mr. Cairns touched her
arm and began to cough. But Miss Verinder quietly went on with it.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Every day your ships
are deteriorating in value. Now a _firm_ offer, Mr. Jones. _Cash!_
Twenty-seven thousand for the three!”

“No, no.”

Mr. Gann and Mr. Rice both turned upon her; Captain Cairns,
choking, took her by the arm and led her to the recess of the
furthest window. There her partners expostulated with her,
declaring that they could not plunge in this manner. One ship was
all they were good for.

“Very well,” she immediately replied; “then I’ll do the other two
ships on my own.”

“And let us stand or fall on number one?”

“Yes, unless you think better of it. Don’t, please, suppose I’m
trying to squeeze you out. At equal stakes we were to have a third
share, weren’t we? Now divide it into twenty-sevenths. You see how
simple it is, don’t you, Captain Cairns? Instead of one-third each
of these gentlemen will have four and a half twenty-sevenths--or
whatever the correct fraction is. That can easily be settled at
leisure. But, please, let me get back to Mr. Jones now. I want to
strike while the iron’s hot.”

Then she returned to the table, and with a slightly ostentatious
flourish produced a cheque book.

“Now, Mr. Jones, I’m ready to write you a cheque for a ten per
cent. deposit. Is the deal going through?”

The deal went through. Perhaps because of his naturally timid
nature, perhaps because of the obvious reluctance shown by the
lady’s partners, Mr. Jones said “Done.”

“And done,” Emmie echoed brightly.

She seemed mildly excited and no more. As she bowed to the
company and withdrew, she still had that air of a well-preserved
middle-aged lady conducting some little affair of ordinary
well-to-do life--such as taking a furnished house or buying a
motor-car.

“Well, I’m blowed,” said Mr. Rice, when the vendor and his agent
had in turn gone away. “She _is_ a card, and no mistake. But
confound her arithmetic. Here, give me a drop more whisky. I don’t
know whether I’m on my head or my heels.”

“That’s always the outcome, with a woman,” said Mr. Gann sadly.

“Look here,” said old Cairns enthusiastically. “You stick it
through with her. For, take it from me--although I was staggered a
moment--she’s done a big thing, and she’s _right_. It’ll turn up
trumps.” And Mr. Cairns began to laugh and cough at the same time.
“What gets me,” he spluttered, “is the comic side of it. All our
faces, when she said--firm offer! Didn’t I tell you she had grit?
Listen half a minute. As an example--in strict confidence--a thing
she did when she was quite a girl!” And, splutteringly, he narrated
how once when Miss Verinder was travelling with a friend in foreign
parts, they were captured and set upon by bravos; “and just as it
seemed they were going to be down and out, she whips in with a
revolver and--”

At this moment Miss Verinder herself interrupted the narration by
reappearing at the door.

“Captain Cairns, can I have one word with you?”

Outside in the corridor she spoke to him tremulously. She was very
pale, and she betrayed a nervousness and agitation strangely
out of character with the melodramatic heroine of the Captain’s
interrupted tale.

“Oh, Captain Cairns, do you think”--and after hesitating she used a
phrase that on several occasions he had used himself--“do you think
I have bitten off more than I can chew?”

“No,” said Mr. Cairns stoutly. “You’ve done a good morning’s work,
and I, well, I’m proud of you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The venture turned up trumps. After three months of painful hope
and fear they sold _Marian II._ and got back all their money.
Then four months later they sold the last ship and wound up the
modest syndicate with a profit of fifty thousand pounds. Meanwhile,
operating alone, Miss Verinder had bought and sold two larger
vessels and thereby gained nearly seventy thousand pounds. Then she
bought ordinary shares in shipping companies, received fabulous
dividends, and got out again. Then, as a last flutter, returning
to an old fancy, she did something really big in oil. And then,
literally and metaphorically, she folded her hands.

Long before this time Mr. Burnett, the stockbroker, had ceased to
talk to her about his cousin Adela, or to lecture her in general
terms on the foolishness of lonely widows and spinsters. He
understood now that in a world which has gone upside down wise saws
and ancient instances are out of place. He hung upon her words, he
treated her with the deference due to an important client; as his
clerks would have said, “he wished he had half her complaint.”

She herself was frightened by her success. In the inevitable
reaction after so much nervous strain and excitement, she felt an
almost superstitious fear of the flood of new capital that was
rolling in upon her. She had dreaded poverty, and now it was as if
some instinct warned her that she might have a greater cause to
dread the consequences of wealth. She told no one anything about
it--no, not even Tony. She guarded all knowledge of it as though
it had been a guilty secret. She flushed and felt ashamed when
affluent Mrs. Bell emitted groans under the war taxation, or when
people spoke with scathing contempt of war profiteers. She longed
for peace.

But the war went on. “Will it ever stop?” wrote Mr. Dyke from
Endells. “It is very cruel to us old people.”

Yes, it was cruel to old people. It shook them, it weakened them,
it killed them. Emmie thought of this--when old Mr. Dyke fell ill
again; and when her mother died. Mrs. Verinder, shrunk to half her
past size, for many years had been an old lady in a Bath chair
gliding slowly along the sea-shore at Brighton with her head a
little on one side; sometimes speaking of Mr. Verinder as though
he was still alive; rather doubtful about the identity of Emmeline
when she visited her, and always prone to confound Margaret Pratt
with Margaret’s eldest daughter. Now she subsided in the chair, and
vanished. Then one day Emmie’s clever solicitor wrote to inform her
that her pensioner, old Mrs. Kent, was no more.

Still the war went on. It had reached that point when one felt and
said that civilization was doomed, that this planet was lapsing
into irremediable chaos, and that the whole universe might crash to
fire and dust. When Emmie read the obituary advertisements in _The
Times_, she felt now that, young or middle-aged or old, the war
spared none. As many people were dying of it here in England as out
there at the front. Only that unfortunate life-sentence prisoner in
the prison called Upperslade Park remained quite undisturbed by the
war, and, as her guardians told Emmie, enjoyed excellent health.

It was unending. Dyke had served in the Mediterranean, in East
Africa, in Mesopotamia; and all the while he had been getting
more and more angry, first because the Germans took such a lot of
beating, and, secondly, because, although they knew themselves
beaten, they wouldn’t own it. “Do you realize,” he wrote now, “that
I am fifty-eight? If it goes on much longer I shall be fit for
nothing but to settle down with my old governor in Devonshire, and
hoe potatoes and carry the muck pail to the pigs. Well, perhaps it
might be the best thing that could happen to me. I should be happy
there if my Emmie was with me.”

Oh, if only that could come true! His Emmie sat dreaming with the
letter in her hand, giving herself to the mental vision that his
words had evoked--the tranquil perfect life down there in the house
that she loved, the unbroken companionship; Anthony satisfied, with
his roving spirit finally at rest; he and she as the squire and the
squire’s lady, being kind to everybody, doing a little good with
her money.

Then she remembered the real Mrs. Anthony Dyke. Even if he
consented to remain in England, that peaceful dual life would be as
impossible as it had always been. And thinking again of all this
money of hers and of the power that money brings, she grew cold and
sad. It was as if already she knew that the money would draw her
irresistibly to a supreme sacrifice.



CHAPTER XV


It had come to an end; and that first Christmas after the Armistice
was spent by Emmie at Endells.

On Christmas eve they had an afternoon party for the children of
the village; with the curate, a schoolmistress, Mr. Sturgess the
doctor, and a few friendly neighbours to assist Miss Verinder in
entertaining the guests. She acted as hostess for old Mr. Dyke, and
was indeed treated by all as though she had been a daughter of the
house. Everybody there knew her and liked her.

After a plenteous tea she led the company to a hall or annexe that
had been used as parish-room and general meeting-place in the days
when the house was the rectory as well as the residence of the
squire.

“Keep down here, please,” said Emmie. “I have something to say to
you all.”

The children, surging into the big room, had made at once towards a
screen of curtains at the far end; from behind which came the sound
of whispers and busy movements, suggesting that some mystery was
in preparation there. Now they obediently flocked back towards the
wide hearth, and formed a dense half circle of eager shining faces.

“That’s right. Thank you,” said Emmie.

It was a pretty old-fashioned little scene; very pleasant, in
its homelike character, to eyes that for so long had been gazing
towards the smoke-clouds of foreign lands. The electric light
burning gaily brought out the cheerful colours of flags, paper
festoons, and holly berries, with which Miss Verinder had decorated
the walls and ceiling beams. The boys, smooth and oily of pate,
were still rather shy; the bigger girls, in their very best frocks,
looked dignified but self-conscious; and some tiny little girls,
large-eyed and fluffy-haired, like dolls, hopped excitedly and
clapped their small hands. One of these animated dolls had attached
herself to Miss Verinder, and moved with her while a chair was
fetched from the wall and placed in the middle of the room.

Miss Verinder made Mr. Dyke sit on the chair. He had carried plates
of cake, waiting on the children at their tea; he was so happy, and
so much pleased with the party, that he would not spare his old
legs or think for a moment of the danger of overtiring himself.

“Now,” said Emmie, with her hand on the back of his chair,
beginning the expected oration. At the same moment the curate went
to the door, and stationed himself by the switches that controlled
the electric light. In the background there was a delighted
whispering and giggling of the servants. “Now, first I think you
ought all to thank Mr. Dyke for giving us this treat.”

“Thank you, sir. Thank you, sir.” Prompted by the schoolmistress, a
noisy chorus of thanks burst from the attentive audience.

“Don’t thank me. Thank Miss Verinder,” said old Dyke, beaming.
“It’s she who has taken the trouble.”

“Thank you, miss. Thank you, miss.”

Miss Verinder smiled, blushed, and then continued her speech. “I
want to speak about Father Christmas. It is Father Christmas, is
it not? who comes down the chimney at night and puts things in
your stockings. It is he who goes into the dark woods and grubs up
the lovely Christmas trees and drags them over the fields to the
village. You like those trees of his, don’t you? Yes, and Father
Christmas carries a great sack over his shoulder full of toys to
hang on the tree--or perhaps the sack is a bran _pie_! And he has
a staff in his hand. You’ve seen heaps of pictures of him, haven’t
you? But you’ve never seen him himself. Oh, how nice it would be to
see him! Perhaps”--and Miss Verinder smiled archly--“I say perhaps,
he is really close by--only afraid to show himself. I believe he is
afraid of the lights. He always moves about in the dark. Shall we
turn down the lights?”

“No,” cried the little child at Emmie’s skirts, “don’t turn down
the lights. I’m more afraid of the dark zan Fazer Kissmuss is of
anysing”; and she clung to Emmie.

“Only for a moment, dear. And you’ve got my hand. There, I’ll keep
my arm round you. Now you don’t mind. Mr. Vincent!” And the curate
by the switches received his signal.

The room was in darkness, except for the glow of the fire and
certain gleams that came through those curtains. One could hear
everybody breathing hard. Then out burst the lamp-light again,
dazzling one.

“Oh, oh, oh!” The children, recoiling, stared in awe and ecstasy.
Father Christmas was in their midst.

He was enormous, overwhelming; a magnificent apparition, all in
red, with immense white beard, cotton-wool eyebrows, high reddened
cheek-bones, and a great beak of a nose. He stalked towards the
curtains, the enraptured children following him.

He drew the curtains wide open; and exhibited a most splendid
Christmas tree as high as the ceiling covered with fairy lamps
and glittering ornaments, its branches hanging low under the rich
burden of toys. He began at once, under the direction of Miss
Verinder, and aided by Hannah the housekeeper, to pluck the fruit
of the tree and to distribute it.

And very soon the children lost their awe of Father Christmas,
hustling him, pulling his skirts; thinking only of the toys, and
saying, “Gi’ me that gun--oh, please. Hi, mister, let me have this
box o’ dom’nos. I’m older than what she is.... Sir, play fair, sir.
My turn, sir.”

The little girl alone still believed in his supernatural
attributes, still clung to Emmie and shrank from him.

“Send him away,” she implored. “I don’t like him.”

“He’s only a man, really,” said Emmie.

“No, he isn’t. He’s Fazer Kissmus.”

Then Emmie issued a command.

“Tony, pull off your beard.”

Father Christmas, willingly obeying, divested himself of beard and
cotton wool, and thus brought into view the rumpled grey hair and
reddened cheeks of that well-known and respected local personage,
Mr. Anthony Dyke.

He went away to get the paint off his face, and was soon back
again, capering gaily about in an ordinary blue serge suit that
could frighten nobody. He played with the boys, he danced with the
girls, and he kissed Hannah under the mistletoe. Hannah, resisting,
called him “Master Anthony,” and told him that he ought to be
ashamed of himself.

Shyness and constraint had long since left the young guests; after
an orgy of cracker pulling and the loot of the tree, the party
became a romp.

At dinner, when they talked it over, all agreed that it had been
a great success. They had with them for dinner the curate and his
wife and Mr. Sturgess, the doctor, kindly simple people of whom
Emmie was fond. Comfort and peace presided over the friendly meal,
and in this old room, sitting beside the old, old man, Emmie looked
quite young. She could see Anthony casting glances of admiration
at her throughout some very long anecdotes with which Mr. Sturgess
always loved to refresh himself when he dined at Endells.

It was the first time that she and the younger Mr. Dyke had ever
been here together. The war, destroying so much else, had blown
away that delicacy which used to separate them during Anthony’s
visits to his home. All over the world--as Emmie thought, sending
back glance for glance--this first Christmas of peace had reunited
those who loved one another. Oh, what a peace it would have been if
it could have brought with it a law that there were never again to
be any more good-byes and partings! In the midst of the warmth, the
joy, and the contentment, sadness coldly touched her heart.

They spent the evening in an oaken parlour, where the polished
floor reflected things as in black water, and round mirrors gave
one small framed pictures of the whole room and its occupants.
Emmie, seated at the immensely ancient cottage piano, played pretty
old-fashioned melodies that she used to play in Prince’s Gate as
a girl; the curate sang; and the doctor, regardless of the music,
told more anecdotes. Old Mr. Dyke, although obviously tired, would
not allow the guests to leave early. Then when they had at last
said Good-night and he himself had gone upstairs to bed, Emmie and
his son lingered, sitting together before the fire.

Hannah came in to tell them that it was nearly twelve o’clock and
she, too, was retiring.

“I’ve seen to the shutters,” she said severely. “But now can I
trust you, Mr. Anthony, to turn out all the lights, and make sure
the fires are safe in here and the dining-room?”

Mr. Anthony promised to do his duty.

Then Hannah turned to Emmie. “Your hot-water bottle, miss! Louisa
took them up an hour ago or more.”

“Thank you, Hannah.”

Just before midnight Dyke went and undid some of Hannah’s shutters
in order to open the front door. He wrapped Emmie in one of his
overcoats, and they stood side by side on the gravel outside the
house. The night was fine and still with the stars very bright in a
dark but cloudless sky. Above the black mass of the ilex trees they
could see vaguely the church tower.

“Will the bells be rung?” asked Dyke.

“Oh, no,” said Emmie. “That’s the new year, you’re thinking of.
They don’t ring in Christmas.”

Presently the church clock began to strike the midnight hour. Dyke
counted the strokes, and when the twelfth came he stooped and
kissed her forehead.

“A happy Christmas, Emmie.”

“And to you, Tony dear. But _are_ you happy, I wonder?”

“As happy as several birds”; and he put his arm round her waist.
“How could I be otherwise?”

They came in again, and barred the door. As she went upstairs she
looked down at him and saw him looking up at her, his face all gay
and bright.

“Good-night. Good-night.”

From the landing at the top of the stairs she looked down again,
and saw his whole attitude relax. His head drooped, his shoulders
hunched themselves; and with his hands in his pockets he went
slowly back to the room they had left.

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of his eighty-five years and bodily weakness, the old man
got up long before daylight and attended the early celebration.
They went with him to the ordinary service at eleven o’clock; he
leaning on Emmie’s arm as they walked through the garden, and
Anthony solemnly following. Anthony looked fantastic as well as
solemn in an astounding top-hat and a skimpy black coat, at least
thirty years old, that he had unearthed from a wardrobe of his
dressing-room. At certain of the sacred words that they presently
heard Emmie turned her eyes towards him with unutterable love in
them, and she felt a great tenderness and compassion as she held
the hymn-book for his father and listened to his thin quavering
voice as he piped the sweet Christmas songs; but during most of the
service there was rather a far-away look on her face. She was in
truth thinking very deeply.

The sun shone on them as they came out of the church, and after all
the greetings and interchange of good wishes with neighbours on
the church path, Emmie and the old man went to sit in that small
walled garden that they both loved. It was really warm here. The
sunshine made strong dark shadows as well as bright patches among
the stalks and branches of the flowerless borders. Mr. Dyke said he
could feel it on his hands. She had wrapped a rug about his knees
and under his feet; and she turned up his coat collar and muffled
his neck with a big scarf. Here, sitting comfortably in the sun and
out of the wind, they had a long serious talk.

Anthony, having cast his ancient finery and clothed himself in a
loose Norfolk jacket, was on the little terrace and busily engaged
with the man who worked the electric light engine. They were
mending a kitchen box for the cook. Anthony, thoroughly enjoying
this carpenter’s job, only ceased his chat with the electrician to
fling a cheery word from time to time towards the sunlit pair on
the bench down below.

“Mr. Dyke, we must face the fact,” Emmie was saying. “He is
_not_ happy. It is all pretence. Ever since he came home he has
been trying hard not to let me see what he feels. But I can see
always--knowing him as I do. He wants to go back there once more.”

“Go back there!” And she saw the sun-warmed hands begin to shake
upon the shrunken knees. “Not--not to the Antarctic?”

Emmie nodded her head. “Yes, he can’t deceive me. It is more than a
wish--he feels that it is a duty.”

“Oh, no, he has other duties.”

“But he feels that this duty is sacred--a sort of charge upon him.
Unless he fulfils it--or at least tries to fulfil it--I know that
he will never be really happy or at peace.”

“Oh, no”; and the poor weak hands were shaking very visibly. “He
mustn’t do it. He is too old.”

“Well, that is what I want us to consider carefully,” Emmie said
in a quiet business-like tone. “_Is_ he too old? He is fifty-nine.
That of course would be too old for any one else; but then he is
not like other men.”

Instinctively they both looked upward to the terrace. Anthony,
after stooping over the box, was standing at his fullest height
and stretching his arms. He stooped a little even now, as if the
weight of his big shoulders was not quite so easy to carry as it
had once been; but his head and neck were magnificent, with the
sunlight on the thick grey hair, the strong bold features, and the
close-cropped beard. If you judged him merely by the indefinable
impression that age itself produces, and at this slight distance,
you would have said that he was a man of forty-five whose hair had
become prematurely grey.

“He says himself that he feels all right--ready for anything. He is
not conscious of the smallest diminution of his strength. Mr. Dyke,
his health _is_ wonderful”; and as Emmie said this, she was like a
sensible unemotional mother speaking about a grown-up son. “Have
you noticed, too, that he is less deaf--scarcely deaf at all?” And
Emmie’s tone changed, and her face grew sad. “No, I’m afraid we
can’t in justice rule him out on the score of health and age. Three
or four years hence perhaps. But not now.”

She looked up to the terrace again, and then spoke with great
firmness. “Of course, if he does go, it must be his very last
voyage. There must be no nonsense about that. He must solemnly
promise us both.”

“Emmie, he musn’t go”; and the old fellow put a trembling hand on
her arm. “Don’t encourage him.”

“You shall advise me, dear Mr. Dyke. But let me tell you everything
first.”

“Yes; but he mustn’t go,” he said eagerly. “He _can’t_ go--if you
consider it. We needn’t frighten ourselves. You and I may think he
is still young--not yet too old for it. But he’ll never persuade
other people to think that. He’ll never get anyone to give him
another chance.”

“Ah!” Emmie winced, and moved her hands swiftly. “When I
remember what has always happened, I believe that he will go
anyhow--_somehow_. The real question is the _how_.”

Then she told Mr. Dyke all about her money.

“My dear Emmie, what an astounding affair! It sounds like a fairy
tale.”

“I wish it was a fairy tale,” she said; “but unfortunately it is
sober truth. No, I ought not to say that. It’s very wrong of me.
Only, now you see the position in which I am placed--with all this
money--so much more than I want or could possibly use--with this
_power_ in my hands. Oh, Mr. Dyke, what am I to do? You see what I
mean? He need not persuade other people to give him a last chance.
I myself can give it to him.”

“Oh, no, he would never take money from you.”

“I think he would. I’m _sure_ he would. To begin with, I could show
him that I should still have enough, even after he’d taken all that
he needed--all that he needed to do things in such a style as has
never been possible to him till now. So there would be no question
of leaving me impoverished.”

“That would make no difference. He’d never consent.”

“Dear Mr. Dyke, you may trust my instinct. He would refuse at
first; then, after a little while, he would consent. He is eating
his heart out--so that the mere personal temptation would be more
than he could resist. But, beyond that, there is this idea of his
that has grown so very strong. He feels that it is not only his own
duty, but the duty of all English people to complete the work of
that brave Englishman who gave his life down there to bring honour
to England. He would feel that I could not spend my money in a
better way--We’ll say no more for a moment.”

Anthony was coming down the brick steps from the terrace.

“I am having a confidential talk with your father,” said Miss
Verinder, in the primly crushing manner of a grown-up person
interrupted by a troublesome child.

“Secrets, what?” He laughed, and went away again.

“That is the position,” she said quietly, when he was back on the
terrace and busy with his carpentering. “I feel that I _ought_ to
help him to his heart’s desire--I feel now that I have no choice
really. But I want you to advise me--to tell me what you think.”

“He oughtn’t to go,” said Mr. Dyke, once more touching, her arm.
“It wouldn’t be fair to you.”

“Oh, _me_!” Her lips twitched, and for a moment her whole face
seemed to be distorted, as if with a spasm of violent pain. “I
mustn’t be allowed to count for a moment. No, leave me out of it
altogether.”

“Emmie, dear. Emmie”; and Mr. Dyke kept his hand on her arm.

Quite quietly, without any convulsive movements of her throat or
bosom, she had begun to cry. The tears flooded her eyes, rolled
down her pale cheeks, and she looked through them towards the
terrace while remaining absolutely still; so that no one up there
who saw her rigid attitude could possibly guess what was happening.
Presently, with furtive caution, she got out a handkerchief and
dried her eyes.

“I have tried not to be selfish, dear Mr. Dyke--all along, you
know. I claim no merit. For how could I be selfish, in such a
case? Indeed his work and what the world says of him make up my
life really. They _are_ my life--that is, my pride and my joy. But
one is weak. He himself is so much to me--so dreadfully much--so
incredibly more, it always seems, than at the very beginning, when
I was young--when we were both young. This time, it seems as if
his going will be almost more than I can bear. It will seem like
suicide if I bring it about, myself. In these last weeks I have
been struggling with myself. Oh, dear Mr. Dyke, I have struggled
in such terrible agony. I want him with me so dreadfully, and yet
he wants to go away from me. And if he could do something big and
splendid to wind up his career--well, I could never, never forgive
myself if it was I who prevented him.”

Mr. Dyke was greatly perturbed.

“I said I wasn’t selfish,” she went on. “It is selfish, what I am
doing now, pushing my burden on to you. But you are always so brave
and so wise--and there is no one else that I can ask for counsel.
Besides, you are his father. You have the right to be consulted--to
decide. A much greater right than I--everybody would say.”

“If he goes,” said the old man, in a low voice, “I shall never see
him again.”

“Oh, no, don’t say that--don’t think it.”

“I know it. I shan’t be here to welcome him home.”

Then Emmie shed tears again, and again succeeded in wiping them
away without being observed by either of the box-menders on the
terrace.

“We have to bear in mind, dear Mr. Dyke, that it is very doubtful
if either of us could prevent him from going sooner or later. And
certainly, if he is to go, it should be as soon as possible. But
my most dreadful thought is this. If I don’t give him the money
he will start as usual, poorly equipped--he will be defeated by
difficulties and turn back. Yet that perhaps may mean his eventual
safety. Whereas, if he is really well fitted out for once, if he
has every possible chance in his favour, then he will be able
to push right on--and that may mean his doom. It’s a horrible
responsibility. Think of it. It would be _I_ who had sent him to
his death.”

“No.” Old Mr. Dyke raised himself on the bench and looked at her.
“No, Emmie, no,” he said; and in his dim eyes she saw a faint flash
that made him seem like a thin small ghost of Anthony. “No. If he
is to do it, let him go for the big prize. Give him his full chance
and don’t count the risks. Let it be all or nothing.”

She jumped up from the bench and stood looking down at him.

“I can’t decide,” he said. “You only can do that. The sacrifice
will be yours, not mine. Only, as I venture to say, don’t spoil it
by half measures.”

Then she called to Anthony. She had decided.

       *       *       *       *       *

Anthony Dyke refused her offer, and stood firm to his refusal for
two days. Then on the morning of the third day he accepted. He was
of course enraptured. He echoed Mr. Dyke’s words in saying that
her acquisition of comparative wealth was like a fairy tale.

“All this time I never knew I had a fairy godmother--I who have
groused about my bad luck. At the fateful moment you suddenly show
the shining crown on your dear head, you wave your magic wand, you
give me the enchanted key. Oh, Emmie, what can I say? What can I
ever do?”

“You can come back safe and sound,” said Emmie. “And you can give
me your sacred word that you’ll never leave me again.”

Kissing her with frenzied warmth, he made his vow. But this first
ecstasy being over, he began at once to treat her with a new and
strange deference. He said that she had become the patron and
chieftain of the glorious project.

“Oh, yes, it’s your show entirely. You trust me, you honour me with
your instructions.”

Before that evening everything was settled between them. She made
a proviso that he should arrange for a relief expedition to follow
after him at a certain date. This must be an integral part of the
plan. And the whole thing must be organised in its smallest details
before he himself started southward. She was very firm as to all
this.

He agreed, saying she was quite right and he knew the very man to
put in command of the relief ship--“Twining, who was my navigating
officer in 1910.”

He bowed deferentially to her decision with regard to other
matters; saying, “Oh, your word would be law. You would be the real
head, and I shouldn’t forget it.” Then he smiled. “You pay the
piper, Emmie, and you call the tune.”

She said that there must be no departure from plans.

“No, no. But you’d give me a free hand when I get down there?”

“Yes, but only within specified limits.”

“Very good,” he said humbly.

Then, in reply to her questions, he said he intended to follow
Captain Scott’s line. The fact that it was sixty miles longer than
the other one was of no consequence. He proposed to go to America
and get his ship and everything else there.

“The Yanks will pull themselves together quicker than we can hope
to do over here. America’s the shop to buy our little bag of tricks
in.” And he had a bright idea. “I say, old J. L. Porter might be
willing to stand some of the racket. I let him down rather badly
last time; but he’s a real sportsman--and I may as well try to
touch him again.”

“No,” said Miss Verinder firmly. “This is _my_ show. And I don’t
want anybody else in it.”



CHAPTER XVI


The year 1919 was, for Miss Verinder, quiet and uneventful.
Magnificently equipped by that country which even peace had not
robbed of its power to hustle, with such a splendid command as he
had never till now enjoyed, Dyke reached Australian waters some
time in the autumn. He called his ship _The Follower_, and in it
he sailed away towards the darkness and the silence. About March,
1920, he must have taken up his winter quarters; and his southern
advance would begin, “according to plan,” with the opening of the
Antarctic summer.

Early in September of 1920 the relief ship, named the _Heather
Bell_, was to sail from Hobart; and thence onward Miss Verinder
might begin to count the months. She could scarcely expect to
receive any news till the end of January or the beginning of
February, 1921; and until then there should be no real grounds for
anxiety. Or, in other and more accurate words, the fate of the new
expedition could not possibly be known until the new year.

Now, in this month of September of 1920, Miss Verinder received a
cablegram from Hobart, saying that the _Heather Bell_ and Twining
had duly departed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The message arrived in the morning, and after luncheon she amused
herself by taking out and rearranging the contents of some of the
little drawers in her bureau. She grew slower and more dreamy
as the tidying process continued, because the sight and touch
of these small treasured odds and ends carried her further and
further backward into the past. Here, for instance, in a drawer
by themselves, lay some pressed flowers. They had been picked in
that courtyard garden behind the hotel at Buenos Ayres. Here was
a photograph of the Mendoza valley. Here were a long white glove
that she had worn at Mrs. Clutton’s party on the night of their
first meeting, the Hurlingham polo programme, one of her tiny
lace handkerchiefs--things that Dyke had stolen from her, kissed
a thousand times, and then after many years given back to her for
safe keeping. She was lost in a gentle meditation when Louisa
opened the door and announced an expected visitor.

“It’s so kind of you to let me come,” said Mildred Parker.

“I won’t be a minute,” said Miss Verinder putting the things away.

“I am not in the least hurry,” said Mildred, with a nervous gasp.

Mildred was that pretty child to whom Miss Verinder had spoken
kindly years ago, when the little thing was sitting on a pony
outside her father’s front door in Ennismore Gardens. Now she had
become a glowing young woman. Daintily dressed in the prevailing
gossamer style, with mauve-coloured stockings and grey _suède_
shoes, with bare neck and looping curls, she had such brightness
of attire and such a youthful bloom of complexion that, as she
settled herself on Miss Verinder’s sofa, she made the whole room
and everything in it seem dull and faded.

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” murmured Miss
Verinder, flicking some dust from the treasures that had set her
dreaming. “These are souvenirs--with only a sentimental value.”

Then, after some conversation about the flat, she shut the last
drawer and brought a chair to the sofa near Mildred.

“Now,” she said, “I am all attention.”

Mildred appeared to be overcome by shyness.

Emmie had divined that the girl had some small trouble of which
she wanted to speak. But she was entirely unprepared for the
actual fact. Knowing that the young Parkers were rather too fond
of cards, even games of chance, she had guessed that Mildred had
burned her fingers at poker and needed a small loan to tide over an
awkward blank till her dress allowance became due. Seeing Mildred’s
confusion, she patted and caressed her, and further to encourage
her firmly promised help.

But it was far more than a game of cards. It was love. Love, as
Mildred confessed, had come upon her “like a thunder-clap.”

Emmie drew in her breath, and sighed.

Mildred told the tale of how she had fallen desperately in love
with a man; how her parents forbade her to love him, forbade her to
meet him, forbade her to think of him; how Mr. Parker threatened
her, bullied her, vowing he would take steps to separate her
irrevocably from her beloved; and how, in consequence, that once
comfortable house in Ennismore Gardens had become a place of
torment and pain.

Listening, Emmie was stirred profoundly. As though the accident of
those retrospective thoughts in which she had just been indulging
had rendered her abnormally sensitive to emotion, she thrilled
and quivered to the shock of Mildred’s words. It seemed to her
that she was hearing her own story from the lips of this innocent
girl. It seemed to her that these obdurate parents who threatened
and ordered and could not understand were Mr. and Mrs. Verinder,
not Mr. and Mrs. Parker; that it was all in the past, not in the
present; that the end of the story had been reached ages and ages
ago, when the daughter walked out of the home that had become a
prison-house and never came back again.

But Mildred was going on; assuring Emmie that she was very much in
earnest. “It’s no silliness--or infatuation, as mother says....
It’s the real thing.”

Then soon she said words so startling that they almost took Emmie’s
breath away.

“I would have you to know also that the man I’ve fallen in love
with is very famous.”

Emmie sat staring at her intently. The thing had become fantastic,
like a dream.

“But it’s nothing to do with his fame that has made me love him. Of
course I don’t mean to say that I wasn’t influenced by all that.
You know what I mean?”

Miss Verinder was breathing fast and moving her hands restlessly.

Then her whole heart melted in tenderness as the girl, analysing
sensations, hopes, and fears, described the love itself. Yes, this
was the real thing. This was the first wonder and glory of sudden
overpowering love, of the love that takes possession and for ever
changes its victim, and yet itself will never change. Miss Verinder
recognized it and acknowledged it. All the bliss and torture that
Mildred told of had been felt by herself a quarter of a century
ago. And she was feeling it now while she listened; the years had
gone; she and Mildred were both of them love-sick girls.

“You _are_ so kind,” said Mildred presently, conscious of the flood
of sympathy that was pouring forth to sustain and float her onward
in her romantic narration.

After a little while Miss Verinder asked who the famous man was.

“But _who_ is he, Mildred? You haven’t told me yet.”

Mildred, smiling proudly, said he was Alwyn Beckett, the actor.
At the moment he was not actually before the public, but he was
understudying the two big parts in a play called _Five Old Men and
a Dog_.

“Ah, yes.”

An actor; a young actor! Miss Verinder at once became inwardly
calm again. The young man was not of course truly famous; but
some sort of unsubstantial fame he hoped to attain one day. Even
the opposition of the parents was not solidly founded; they
merely objected to the young man because they did not like his
shadowy precarious profession, and because, further, they doubted
if he would do any good in it. All her sympathy remained, but
while Mildred went on talking about the attitude of Mr. and Mrs.
Parker she ceased to listen with attention. This was a trifling
commonplace little business when compared with the real romances,
the big romances of life.

But then Mildred banged out something that gave her a violent
shock; indeed it shook her to her very foundations. She gasped, and
uttered a faint cry.

Mildred had been saying that she felt desperate, and inclined to
run away.

“And marry him without your parents’ consent?” Emmie had said
dreamily.

“Or _not_ marry him,” said Mildred.

“Mildred!” said Emmie, uttering that little cry. “What _do_ you
mean?”

“Well, what I mean is that if they’re so damned old-fashioned, I
don’t see why they shouldn’t stew in their own gravy--at least
for a bit. Don’t you see? When they find I’m gone in that way, if
they’re really genuine in their feelings, it will be the regular
mid-Victorian business. The lost child--our daughter gone to
perdition. Get her married now to the scoundrel that has lured her
away. Make her an honest woman at any price”; and Mildred laughed.

Although still preserving an aspect of calmness, Miss Verinder was
greatly agitated by this monstrous suggestion. Again for a moment
or two it seemed as if all this was a dream--or as if the innocent
modern girl was mocking her with a travesty of her own ancient
experience. How could she really contemplate taking so disastrous
a step? With no insurmountable obstacle between her and her lover,
with no irremovable cause to prevent their being eventually united,
how could the child speak thus of throwing away her good name and
bringing disgrace on all her family? It was fantastic.

“You and I must talk very seriously,” said Miss Verinder, with
firmness.

Louisa brought in tea, and throughout the meal Emmie was thinking.
She watched little flashing palpitating Mildred with critical
eyes but affectionate purpose. Mildred was only a child still, a
child who must be prevented from doing idiotic things in a fit of
childish impatience.

She thought of the thousand reasons why, even when driven
inexorably, one should not do what she herself had done--the
remorse for the pain one has caused to others, the crushing sense
of being outlawed and proscribed, the slights, the humiliations,
the meek submissions that one is called upon to suffer. Every
year of her life, every day of it, had shown her another valid
reason why any ordinary person should regret an act such as
hers. She herself had never regretted. She had not been able to
regret--because the thing had been done for Anthony Dyke. She had
neither flinched nor faltered. But a pretty little flower like
this would wither under the first frosty breath of disgrace. She
would soon be sorry that passion had whirled her into a reckless
deed. “She is not like me,” thought Emmie, with a faint smile. “She
is not by nature the sort of desperate character that sticks at
nothing.”

Besides, for Mildred to make a hash of her reputation would be a
quite meaningless disaster. There was not the slightest necessity
for heroic measures. If, as Emmie hoped and was inclined to
believe, the young man proved worthy of such a nice girl, then
those silly Parkers must be made to consent. And again Emmie felt
a melting tenderness and sympathy for this pretty innocent little
soul and her love-dream. It must, and it should end prettily; with
music, marriage bells, and sunshine; with the bride all in white
coming up the aisle upon her father’s arm, to be given to her
sweetheart amidst blessings and rejoicings.

So she offered Mildred--as has been already related--some very
old-fashioned advice; and finally made her promise to abandon any
idea of acting rashly and improperly. Mildred tore at her gloves,
pouted, and shed tears beneath the chilling wisdom. But she in her
turn was startled by one or two things that Miss Verinder said to
her. Especially something quite inexplicable about no women ever
ceasing to wait and to hope, moved her and made her wonder.

Miss Verinder was very severe about running away with people before
you married them, no matter for what motive the unsanctified bolt
might be undertaken.

“Believe me,” she said, sitting beside Mildred on the sofa, and
with an arm round her waist, “it is only the very strongest
characters that can brave public opinion.... Yes, I am sure--to
go right through with anything of that kind immense self-control,
really almost an iron nerve is required. And,” she added, “you
musn’t think I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

She said much more, but one reflection touched her young friend
with greater strength than all the rest. “You have to think of your
Alwyn and the effect it might produce on him.” While she said it
her voice grew soft and her eyes had an unexpected radiance. She
was thinking of Anthony Dyke. “Perhaps,” she went on, “it is only
the very finest natures that can accept--ah--this particular kind
of surrender or self-sacrifice from a woman, and still hold her
quite as high in their minds as they did before--ah--the surrender
occurred.

“There, Mildred dear,” she concluded cheerfully, “I am going to
help you for all I’m worth. And you are going to be wise. And
don’t--I beg you--forget this. I have my reasons for all I have
said.”

Mildred went away wondering what on earth could be Miss Verinder’s
reasons for one or two of the things said.

Emmie had promised to give help in this simple love affair, but
truly it helped her. It charmed her and absorbed her, filling
several of those months which had to be counted before definite
news could come.

In accordance with her unfailing habit, she was writing every
fortnight to Dyke, although all her letters must lie waiting at
Hobart unseen by him for a long time; and she told him now about
Mildred and Alwyn.

  “...The young man was brought for me to see this afternoon, and
  I must say I was very much pleased with him. He is distinctly
  handsome with a good presence and a strong but yet musical
  voice, so that as far as one can judge he is well fitted for his
  profession. He is _very_ ambitious, and I liked that too. But
  with the ambition he has that kind of helplessness that seems
  almost universal in this generation--as though they were not
  really grown-up, but like children trust everything to other
  people and make no effort themselves. He is only twenty-eight,
  and he left Cambridge, where he did a lot of amateur acting, in
  order to join one of the new battalions. He was twice wounded and
  mentioned in despatches. That is as it should be.

  “I cannot tell you how much touched I was by Mildred’s little
  proprietorial, almost _motherly_ airs with him; so keenly anxious
  that he should make a favourable impression, and using all her
  innocent arts to show him off at his very best. O love, love! Is
  there anything else that is beautiful in the world beyond love,
  and the manifold effects that love produces? I assure you, dear
  Tony, that as I watched them, the past came right back again. It
  was not those two; it was you and I. It was the year 1895, and
  not the date that I have put at the top of this paper.

  “To-morrow I am to see the brother. And after that I shall tackle
  the father.”

Hubert Parker, Mildred’s brother, had been at Cambridge with Alwyn
Beckett; and he assured Miss Verinder that there was not a better
fellow alive. He thoroughly approved of him as a husband for his
sister. Alwyn, to his mind, was good enough for a royal princess.
“I agree with Mildrings,” he said, smiling. “I think the governor
has been bitten by a mad dog.”

Then Miss Verinder had Alwyn before her again. He sat in the middle
of the sofa, facing her, while “Mildrings” stood behind him, put
her hand on his shoulder, and told him not to interrupt but to
listen, when he burst out with vows and protestations.

He was protesting because Miss Verinder said that there must be
no more of these clandestine meetings. They were not fair to
Mildred.

“Yes, but whose fault is that? If her people won’t allow me to the
house, if they treat me like a pick-pocket, if they--”

“Alwyn,” said Mildred, with severity, “Miss Verinder is speaking.”

Miss Verinder insisted on an assurance that the unlicensed
interviews should cease forthwith, and it was given to her by both
of them. She said it was necessary that she should feel on this
firm ground before she approached Mr. Parker. She for her part
promised to begin the attack at once.

“Mildred, could you get me asked to dinner informally?”

“_Rather_,” said Mildred. “They’ll jump for joy. They’re getting
rather stuffy because you always refuse.”

“Then the sooner the better, dear”; and Miss Verinder smiled.
“Don’t be surprised if I seem a little artful--or even
disingenuous. I think, just at first, I’ll not say I know anything
of your partiality for Mr. Beckett--or for Alwyn, if I may take the
liberty of calling him by his Christian name.”

“I should adore it,” said Alwyn.

“It is all Christian names nowadays, isn’t it?” and Emmie smiled
again. “Then, as I say, I’ll open a masked gambit for Mr. Parker to
play to. You see, the great thing is to get him accustomed to the
idea.”

“What a dear funny old bird she is,” said Alwyn, when he and
Mildred were outside the door in Oratory Gardens.

“She’s divinely kind,” said Mildred with enthusiasm.

As she had predicted, there was no difficulty in regard to Miss
Verinder’s invitation.

“But are you sure she won’t expect a regular party?” asked Mr.
Parker.

“No,” said Mildred, “she hates a crowd.”

Only the family and two very old friends were present therefore,
so that the conversation was general. Mr. Parker, who had recently
flown to Paris and back in the day, just for fun, gave an account
of his interesting experience, to which Miss Verinder listened with
great attention.

Then, towards the end of dinner, she herself talking freely, told
them about a very nice young man that she had met. She praised
him for his modesty as well as his niceness. Quite the best type
of the clever and yet not conceited youth of the present day! She
understood that he had done very well in the war; and he was now on
the stage--Mr. Alwyn Beckett. “By the way--I believe he said he
knew you all, or some of you.”

Only Hubert Parker spoke. “One of my best pals,” said Hubert.

Mildred was staring at the tablecloth and crumbling the remains
of a small roll; Mrs. Parker seemed to have been troubled with a
twinge of toothache or rheumatism; Mr. Parker, suddenly red in the
face, opened his mouth and, shutting it, breathed hard through his
nose. It was one of those brief silences that appear to be long.
Then Mr. Parker, recovering himself, asked Miss Verinder if she had
read Mr. Locke’s delightful new novel.

Following the modern fashion, the ladies and the men left the
dinner-table together. Upstairs, in the double drawing-room, Hubert
and Mildred soon set in action a monstrous gramophone of the latest
model and most expensive style, both of them giggling hysterically
while they assisted each other with the record and the mechanism.

“How can you be so ridiculous?” asked Mrs. Parker, speaking to them
from the front room. “What _is_ the joke?”

Mildred chokingly replied that there was no joke. It was only the
gramophone that made them laugh. In fact, they had been overcome by
the calm unscrupulousness of Miss Verinder’s dinner gambit.

The two old friends liked the gramophone; and directly its
crackling music began to fill both rooms, Mr. Parker seated himself
beside Miss Verinder and explained to her that she had unwittingly
touched on a very sore spot when she mentioned the name of “that
young man.” Mrs. Parker came and sat on the other side of her, and
both together told her all about Mildred’s absurd infatuation. Then
they begged her aid in bringing Mildred to her senses.

“That is really why I have put you _au courong_,” said Mr. Parker.
“You have influence with her. A word in season from you may have
great effect.”

“Not if her affections are really engaged,” said Miss Verinder,
with one of her deprecating smiles.

“Oh, no, nonsense,” said Mr. Parker, in a tone more irritable than
any that he had ever employed when addressing this honoured guest.
“Don’t let’s have any idiotic sentimentality, which would merely
encourage her. We have never fostered anything of that sort, and
Mildred, up to now, has seemed to have her head screwed on all
right. I regard this as a passing craze--due, in great measure, to
all this preposterous exaltation of the stage. Upon my word, the
illustrated papers make me positively sick nowadays--nothing but
photographs of actors and actresses. Miss So-and-So at play. Mr.
What’s-his-name on the golf links. Theatrical stars on the Riviera!”

A few days later Miss Verinder called upon the Parkers, and
reported that, having sounded Mildred, she had no doubt that the
young lady’s feelings for the young gentleman were of a deep and
serious character.

Mr. Parker immediately said that if he accepted even half the
substance of this report, the time had come to put his foot
down, and he would either send or take Mildred into exile on the
continent.

“I’ll keep her out of his way, until she has got over it.”

An absorbingly interesting discussion ensued on the ethics of
parental authority. Miss Verinder advised them not to attempt
strong measures with Mildred; above all, not to put restrictions on
her liberty here in London or to banish her from her native land.

“I really don’t think,” she said meekly, “that parents have the
right to act in so violent a manner. And I am quite sure, Mr.
Parker, that it never pays. As to banishment--well, you know,
absence is apt to make the heart grow fonder; and if it comes to
giving a young girl peremptory orders to stop being in love with
somebody that she _is_ in love with, I do really think it must
always strengthen her resolve. She feels then that she is being
unjustly dealt with. After all, it is _her_ destiny that is at
stake. She may love and respect her parents, she may regret--oh,
yes, she may most bitterly regret giving them pain”--Miss
Verinder’s voice faltered, and she showed other signs of slight
emotion--“but she _cannot_ renounce the whole happiness of her
life, because other people--even her father and mother--order her
to do so. She herself _must_ decide. Believe me, Mr. Parker, it
isn’t right to use more than argument and persuasion. Force is
quite out of the question.”

Mr. Parker walked about the room fuming; and it must be confessed
that as Miss Verinder observed his frowning brows, his heightened
colour, and the querulous lines at each side of his mouth, she felt
for a moment an almost mischievous amusement in recognizing how
little human nature had changed in the last quarter of a century.
This room was very different from any room of that old house in
Prince’s Gate, and yet the atmosphere was the same. Emmie glanced
round at the very modern decorations chosen by Mrs. Parker with
so much pride and pleasure. This was the boudoir of Mrs. Parker,
and she called it the Chinese parlour. The ceiling was red; the
walls were black, with panels filled not by pale-limbed nymphs
of Leighton or Burne-Jones, but by golden sprawling dragons,
iridescent fishes, and impossible silver trees; the furniture,
instead of being heavy and splendid, was light and fantastic. Mrs.
Parker had no comfortable _pouf_ to sit upon. But here was Mr.
Parker, who believed himself to be full of liberal-mindedness and
advanced up-to-date philosophy, who belonged to the Automobile Club
and went by aeroplane to Paris, holding in all essentials the views
that fathers held twenty-five years ago, or a hundred years before
that. He believed not only that he had the right to dispose of his
daughter’s heart, but that if he showed firmness he would vindicate
this right. He was more old-fashioned, further behind his times,
than poor Mr. Verinder had been. He walked to and fro and gloured
at Emmie.

“I hope,” she said, “that you will not think me impertinent in
venturing to give my advice.”

“Oh, no. Oh, certainly not. I am very much obliged.” Mr. Parker
stopped walking, made some swallowing movements in his throat,
and then spoke impressively but urbanely. “There are very few
people for whose judgment I have so much respect as for yours, Miss
Verinder. The position and the influence that you have rightly
secured among all who have the honour of your acquaintance is, if
I may say so, principally due to the very high standard of, ah,
manners as well as morals that you rightly stand out for. I know
that you do not tolerate subversive ideas. Otherwise, frankly, I
could not have listened to you with the patience that I hope I
have shown. But I cannot, I will not agree that it is my duty to
allow a child of mine to make a fool of herself if I can prevent
it. And what staggers me, what beats me altogether”--and he looked
from Miss Verinder to his wife, with a suddenly helpless, baffled
expression--“what utterly amazes me is the _change_ in Mildred. I
ask myself what has happened to her. Is she bewitched? It is not
_like_ her to oppose any headstrong wish of hers to the considered
opinion of those older and presumably wiser. Up till now she has
seemed to lean on one’s advice, to crave for it. It is not as if
she had ever been a disobedient girl. Why, good gracious, no. We
used to say from the very beginning, even when she was quite a tiny
little thing, ‘There is never any trouble with Mildred.’ One just
told her what to do, and she seemed to take a positive pleasure in
doing it. Is not that so?”

Miss Verinder said no more then; but before many days had passed
she returned to the attack. Endeavouring to accustom Mr. Parker’s
mind to the idea, she extracted a statement of his objections to
Alwyn as a possible son-in-law.

Mr. Parker said emphatically that Alwyn was not good enough for
Mildred, and when gently invited to consider if in saying this
he did not mean that Alwyn was not good enough for him, Mr.
Parker, he owned that, beyond his distaste for the young man’s
profession--which he did not admit really to be a profession--Alwyn
was a nobody in it. He had not “arrived.”

“Oh, but he _will_ arrive,” said Miss Verinder. “You know, he
had now been put on to play one of the principal parts in that
delightful comedy _Five Old Men and a Dog_. I went to see it, and
I was much struck by his performance. I really think, Mr. Parker,
that you and Mrs. Parker ought to go yourselves.”

“We shall do nothing of the sort,” said Mr. Parker.

Then, very soon after this, Miss Verinder attacked in real earnest.
She said that the result of arbitrarily closing the house doors
against Mr. Beckett had been that these young people met each other
in a furtive undignified fashion outside the doors; that they had
promised Miss Verinder to discontinue the practice, and that they
had discontinued it; but that she thought they would certainly
withdraw the promise unless Mr. Parker adopted a more conciliatory
attitude towards them.

“And then, Mr. Parker, who can say what may follow? At Mildred’s
age one is naturally impulsive, fearless, disinclined to attach
importance to what is said or thought. She might so easily get
herself talked about. And we don’t want that, do we?”

Mr. Parker did not want it. The thought of gossip about his family
life made him pale and grave.

The embargo on Alwyn Beckett was raised, and he was given entry
to the house and access to Miss Parker in the capacity of her
brother’s friend and an ordinary visitor. But it was to be strictly
understood by both of them that the possibility of an engagement
was neither contemplated nor countenanced. This settlement was
reached late one evening, and early next morning Mildred ran across
the Brompton Road to thank and hug her dearest Emmeline.

And now Miss Verinder tackled Alwyn. One afternoon when Mildred had
brought him to tea at the flat, she told him plainly that in her
opinion he ought to bestir himself, and snatch success rather than
wait for it.

“If I may say so, Alwyn, I think it is up to you to prove what
you’re made of.”

Alwyn looked rather blank beneath this assault.

“Oh, but he _has_ proved it already,” said Mildred, at once
defending the beloved object. “He tries so hard; he never spares
himself. You forget how he played Mercutio at that charity matinée
and what splendid notices he had.”

“Yes,” said Miss Verinder, “but he must go on doing it. He must
strike while the iron’s hot. He must impress himself upon the
public.”

Alwyn, interposing, dolefully said that this was just what he would
do if he got a chance.

“What would give you chance?”

“A play and a backer.”

“Well then, find them,” said Miss Verinder.

“My dear good lady,” said Alwyn, in a tone of distinct fretfulness.
“That’s easily said. But if you knew a little more about the
theatrical--”

“Ally,” said Mildred reprovingly.

“I mean to say, don’t you know--”

“Ally,” said Mildred again. “That’s enough.”

His classical features assumed a haughty expression, that olive
complexion which Mildred thought the most beautiful thing in the
universe perceptibly darkened; and he passed a hand backward from
the brow, over his sleek, well-brushed hair, with a grand gesture.

“It’s all mighty fine,” he said to Mildred afterwards; “but I’m not
accustomed to be talked to like that. And I don’t like it.”

Mildred was severe with him. “How can you be so abjectly
ungrateful--after all she has done for us?”

But Miss Verinder intended to do much more for them yet.

Alwyn was a really good fellow, but, as is not infrequently the
case with young actors who have not quite realised their full
ambition, he was just a little touchy. Perhaps the slight prick
given to him by Miss Verinder was really a valuable stimulus. At
any rate, Mildred found that he had begun to bustle about with a
new activity.

Next time he saw Miss Verinder he told her, rather grandly, that he
had found a play. It was a very remarkable piece of work by that
well-known author Mr. Sherwood--real literature, with psychology in
it as well as characterisation, and, what was more to the point, a
thumping fine part for Alwyn.

“Been the rounds for the last three years, but I don’t mind that,”
said Alwyn, even more grandly. “That doesn’t frighten me. It was
too good for them to spot it. The same thing happened to _Ring a
Ring o’ Roses_”; and he named several other plays that, after being
rejected by everybody, had made huge successes. “Of course, it’s
high-brow. But I want high-brow.”

“Yes,” said Mildred. “He _must_ have high-brow stuff. I always tell
him so.”

Then, quite magnificently, he said he intended to approach Leahurst
about it. He thought he might very likely be able to make an
arrangement with Leahurst, who was always on the lookout for a
really good thing. And he looked hard at Miss Verinder, to observe
the effect produced upon her by this august name.

Unfortunately, she had never till now heard the name. Alwyn was
compelled to tell her all about Mr. Leahurst; and, doing so, he
abandoned his magnificent air and spoke with profound reverence
of this Napoleon of the theatrical world. Mr. Leahurst owned or
controlled half a dozen theatres, he sometimes had nine or ten
shows going at the same time, his interests were so wide that you
never got to the end of them. Wherever you saw a real success you
might ask if he wasn’t somehow in it. He had a marvellous _flair_.
It was said, too, that why he scarcely ever went wrong, was because
by his own business talent he could make a success of anything.

“Oh, then do approach him without delay,” said Miss Verinder
eagerly. “See Mr. Leahurst at once; and come straight here and tell
me the result. I shall be longing to hear.”

“Darling Emmeline,” said Mildred, “you _are_ so kind. It _is_ such
a support to both of us.”

Not next day, but a few days later, she returned with an unusually
excited Alwyn. The great Mr. Leahurst had considered his proposals
in a most favourable spirit. He had, indeed, said that he might be
inclined to do something with Sherwood’s play if Alwyn had behind
him somebody willing to come into it with a few thousand pounds.

“Tell him you have somebody,” said Miss Verinder.

At first they did not understand what she meant, and then they said
they could not possibly trade upon her kindness and generosity.
Oh, no, it would be too mean and selfish to risk her money just
for their advancement in life! But she was determined; and after
yielding to her persuasion, Mildred fell into a sort of ecstasy of
gratitude during which she uttered anything but compliments with
regard to Mr. Parker.

“When I compare you with my own father, Oh, darling Emmeline, I do
feel such contempt for him. It is _he_ not _you_, who should be
doing this for Ally. But would he have risked one penny-piece? No,
not if we had crawled round Ennismore Gardens on our knees. If you
only heard him grunting and grousing about the super-tax, when we
all know he doesn’t spend half his income. Oh, how I hate misers!”

“Mildred dear, don’t. It is wrong to speak of your father like
that. He only wishes you good.”

For the young people there ensued a time of wild excitement; and
Miss Verinder took her share in it, allowing herself to throb
or shiver sympathetically with all their hopes and fears. Mr.
Leahurst, like other potentates, proved difficult; one day, Alwyn
said, he was shilly-shallying, another day blowing hot and cold,
another day coldly doubtful. Then Alwyn gave a Sunday dinner-party
at a restaurant, in order to clinch matters with Mr. Leahurst.

He implored Emmie to make herself very agreeable to Mr. Leahurst,
and afterwards Mildred thanked her for her agreeableness.

Alwyn gave her many warnings and cautions. He said that Mr.
Leahurst was not the kind of person that she had been accustomed to
meet socially. How should he put it? “Not Eton and Christ Church
and all that.” He also said that she would certainly, sooner or
later, hear tales about Mr. Leahurst. He added that Mr. Leahurst
was fifty years of age or more. This, he concluded, was merely
“preparing” her for Mr. Leahurst.

But no preparation could really prepare one for Mr. Leahurst. He
was the most melancholy man that she had ever seen; in comparison,
the sadness of her late partner, Mr. Gann, was gaiety. He did not
speak to her or anybody else. He ate his food in profound silence
and did not even appear to observe that there was a band playing.
He smoked cigarettes, and had a dreadful trick with his lips, to
get rid of bits of paper or tobacco--a perfectly dry manœuvre,
but it sounded as if he was spitting. His cigarette case, Emmie
noticed, seemed as big as a small dressing-bag; but he had no
matches.

“Waiter,” he said; and they all jumped because his speaking
suddenly was such a surprise. “Waiter, ’blige me with match. Forgot
my box. Thanks”; and he lit a cigarette. This was in the middle of
the meal.

They talked of the play, and still he said nothing.

Then when the party broke up and he was going, Alwyn spoke to him
about it.

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Mr. Leahurst. “Yes, I’ll tell ’em to
get on with it to-morrer.”

“How can I thank you?” said Alwyn, humbly yet exultantly.

Mr. Leahurst made that ugly sound and lit another cigarette.

“You’d better come down to the theater to-morrer mornin’.”

“Which theatre, Mr. Leahurst?”

“Duke o’ Kent’s. I’ve got it on my hands till Feb. eight”; and
going, he turned. “If your thing _should_ catch on, I’d have to
shift yer.”

The venture was fairly started now, and the excitement grew more
febrile. There was difficulty in finding a good title for the play.
The author’s title had at once been condemned as “tripe.” He had
called his work _The Secret Disaster of Mr. Eadenwell_; meaning to
convey thereby the main point of the fable--the disaster being that
the imagined Eadenwell’s private code of ethics would not work and
was abandoned by him without anyone else knowing what had happened.
Alwyn was in favour of calling it _The Danger Signal_; but somebody
reported that Mr. Leahurst said the sort of titles he preferred
were _Love Wins, For Two Bright Eyes_, and _The Tempting Sex_. Of
course they might not use these, since they were titles of existing
plays.

Miss Verinder and Mildred were present at the rehearsals. They
could not keep away. This new strange aspect of a playhouse
fascinated them--the darkness of the house itself, the seats
all shrouded in white wrappers, with somewhere high up near the
invisible roof a slanting beam of real daylight; and the stage
brilliantly lit yet not like the stage, with odd bits of scenery,
and the players unpainted, in commonplace every-day costume.

Miss Verinder sat in a stall next the central gangway, well back
from the empty orchestra, and Mildred sat with her, except when for
a few minutes Alwyn was unoccupied and could come down through the
pass-door from the stage.

Mildred said, “We mustn’t expect it to shape all at once.”

That of course was what they were doing with the play, shaping it.
Everyone was busy--the producer, Alwyn himself, Mr. Russell the
stage-manager, a Mr. Holmdale with vaguely defined interests in
Leahurst productions, and some one else who appeared spasmodically;
so many that it seemed as if anybody who came in from the street
took a hand at it. They chopped and changed little bits of
dialogue, they transposed scenes, they worked hard.

People playing minor characters came down and clustered watching,
and there were a few hangers-on in stalls at ends of rows; amongst
them a rather miserable-looking man, very nervous and shy, who
bowed and smiled at everybody. No one took any notice of him. A
silly affected young woman playing the lady’s-maid did not know her
words, and with a shrill giggle said they were not worth learning.
Miss Millbank, who played the principal female part, complained
bitterly of the things she was made to say--“things that I simply
don’t _feel_.”

“As if she could feel anything,” said Alwyn scornfully to his
backer. “She is made of wood.”

At last Mr. Leahurst appeared. One morning he came mysteriously
from the refreshment bar beyond the pit, walked down the central
gangway to the orchestra, and returned again, with his hands
clasped behind his back. Everyone fell silent, no one moved; it was
as if waves of awe had begun to flow through stagnant air. One had
a paralysing sensation of expectancy, one’s heart gave heavy beats.

“Don’t take any notice of me,” he said, walking backwards and
forwards.

The rehearsal proceeded.

Then almost at once he recognized Miss Verinder in her stall next
the gangway. He stopped short in his walk and nodded to her.

“Well, how goes it?”

“I really think it is shaping all right,” said Emmie.

“No, I don’t mean the play. Yourself.”

“Oh, very well, thank you.”

“Move up one, will yer?”

And sitting down beside her, he remained silent, tapping himself
on the chest and sides, and feeling in overcoat pockets. Then he
called loudly.

Mr. Russell, the stage-manager, came down the stage at a run. The
rehearsal stopped and there was dead silence. Mr. Russell leaned
forward over the footlights, his face all lit up and a hand shading
his eyes, as he peered into the dark auditorium and spoke anxiously.

“Was that you calling me, Mr. Leahurst?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Leahurst. “Much ablige if you’ll give me box
o’ matches. Somehow seem to have forgot mine.” And he told the
people on the stage to go on. “I beg your pardon. I didn’t mean
t’interrupt you. Very sorry, I’m sure”; and the rehearsal was
resumed. “Ta, Mr. Russell.”

He lit his cigarette, and turning a shoulder to the stage, talked
to Emmie; while Mildred and Alwyn, spellbound, watched them from
the corner by the pass-door.

“We shall lose our money over this,” he said.

“Oh, I hope not, Mr. Leahurst.”

“I wonder what made a lady like you take up such a game as this.
Ever done it before?”

“No.”

“No, so I thought. I was suprise when Beckett made me known to you.
You follow what I mean? Nothing of the theatre about you. Just
lending him a helping hand? Well, you’re rich, I s’pose--so it
won’t hurt you either way.”

“Oh, but my wish is that it’ll be a great success.”

“You won’t get your wish,” He nodded his head mournfully, and,
removing his cigarette from his made that trumpeting sound with his
lips.

“Don’t you like the play, Mr. Leahurst?”

“I dunno anything about the play. It’s Greek to me. But I know
this: wrong season to produce anything important--stop-gap--no
names in the cast”; and he made a movement with his thumb, as of
Romans at a gladiatorial arena. “Right down--unless by a fluke
Beckett draws the women.”

Emmie pleaded against his dismal prognostications.

“Oh, please don’t make me down-hearted.”

“All right,” said Mr. Leahurst, suddenly smiling at her. “I don’t
want to crab it. Cert’nly not--since you’re so keen on it.”

It was quite extraordinary, the effect of that first smile. Emmie,
who had been afraid of him because everybody else was afraid of
him, had now the weak instinctive gratification that even the best
people feel when the ogre unbends to them. But it was more than
that. She had a swift convincing impression of innate simplicity
and good nature. Whatever the tales about him, there was something
in this common illiterate man that you could not dismiss lightly.
She asked herself what. Power, strength of purpose, or the
concealed kindliness?

And without prelude he began to talk of himself--with a candour
so astounding that Emmie was rendered breathless. He talked about
himself as if there was no possible question that it was a subject
of entrancing interest to all the world; also as if he had detected
in Emmie complete sympathy, together with burning curiosity, and it
would not be fair to keep back any detail from her. “Plays are all
the same to me. The best of ’em--I mean what the critics call the
best--give me an headache. I never went inside a theatre till I was
thirty-seven--an’ never wanted to. It was my late wife dragged me
into the business. That’s all it is to me--a business. She was an
actress by profession--and a cat domestically. I gave way for peace
and quiet. A lot o’ money I spent on her, giving her shows in this
and that, ramming her down the public’s throat, and o’ny makin’ ’em
sick, all said and done. But I was loyal. I went on with it--till
they came and told me I’d lost her. I don’t want to say anything
unkind about her. But that’s why you see me here. I’ve learnt it
now--and I wash one hand with the other. The people bred up in the
business are like a pack o’ children. Natchrally, any real business
man does what he likes with ’em. Miss Verinder, tell me if you can:
What is the charm of the theatre?” He did not wait for an answer.
“Vanity, I suppose, at the bottom of it. Same with your friend
Beckett! I dunno. I like Beckett because he’s a manly young feller;
not like these long-haired--” And to indicate the class of actors
to whom he objected, he used a technical term that Emmie did not
understand.

Then the producer spoke to him from the stage.

“Mr. Leahurst, a point has arisen.”

“Go ahead, Mr. Hope,” he said. “I leave it to you”; and turning his
shoulder a little more, he went on talking to Miss Verinder.

“Take to-day--fine bright winter day. Fancy us coming stuffing
in here, all in the dark. I don’t play outdoor games myself.
But surely to goodness one might take a ’bus and have a walk up
Highgate way; or run down to Brighton in the _Southern Belle_ and
take a toddle on the pier. You like open air, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Yes, I thought so. And cold water too, unless I’m mistaken. I
mean, a tub every morning.”

Emmie was embarrassed.

“So do I,” said Mr. Leahurst, quite heartily. “Keeps one fresh--and
young. I mean, young for one’s age”; and he looked at her with
another friendly smile. Then he became very confidential again.
“But since I lost my wife I feel myself in a precarious situation.
No proper home. Then, of course, these girls take advantage of me.”

“What girls?” asked Miss Verinder innocently.

“Oh, I s’pose they’ve told you. I’m too easy. I dropped a lot
o’ money in putting up that revue--bother the name--for Mamie
Cockayne. First one, then another”; and he made a gesture, waving
the stump of his cigarette comprehensively.

While he brought out a fresh cigarette Mildred came sidling along
their row of stalls, and whispered to Emmie.

“Tell him how bad we think Miss Millbank.”

“Who’s she?” asked Mr. Leahurst, when Mildred had sidled away
again. “Understudy?”

“No, a friend of mine. Miss Parker.”

“Nice ladylike person! S’pose she is a lady, if it comes to
that--being a friend of yours.”

Emmie presently conveyed to him the damaging opinion about Miss
Millbank. “She doesn’t seem to understand anything, and she is so
hard--really as hard as nails.”

“Is that so?” said Mr. Leahurst, glancing round at the stage.

“Of course, it’s a Marian D’Arcy part; and Mr. Beckett says if you
imagine Miss D’Arcy doing it, you see at once how dreadfully Miss
Millbank falls short.”

But just then a wrangle had broken out upon the stage and people
were calling for Mr. Leahurst.

Miss Millbank declared that again she could not say such stuff.

“Well, cut it out,” said somebody. “Or let her speak that line
of Mrs. Harcourt’s,” said somebody else. “What’s that bit of
Beckett’s?” said the producer. “‘I wonder if women ever think
that’--How does it go on? Give Miss Millbank the whole of that bit,
Beckett. You can spare it. No, that won’t do either. She can’t say
your line about poverty and her trouser pockets.” And they all of
them talked at the same time.

Then all at once they appealed to the unhappy-looking man in the
corner of the stalls. “Is Mr. Sherwood there? I say. Can’t you help
us with a suggestion? Can’t you write in some lines here? You must
have some opinion. Sherwood!”

And Emmie with a shock of surprise understood that he was the
author.

He said, “I think you’re spoiling it.”

They all turned against him in furious indignation. “Did you hear
what he said? Mr. Leahurst, did you hear him? Here are we toiling
for him--grinding our hearts out for him--and he says--Oh, great
Scott, that puts the lid on everything.”

Mr. Leahurst went down to the orchestra, and said, “There’s no need
for us to lose our tempers.”

“Certainly not,” said the producer, crimson with passionate wrath.

Miss Millbank, stepping forward, said she had never been asked to
speak such tommy-rot. Stuff that she could not feel!

“My dear,” said Mr. Leahurst, mildly and forlornly, “you are doing
your best. It’s not your fault if you don’t quite hit it off.”

This made Miss Millbank exceedingly angry. “What?” she said. “Don’t
you like my reading?”

“So far as I have been able to ascertain,” said Mr. Leahurst, “it’s
a Marian D’Arcy part. Well, you aren’t Marian, are you?”

The rehearsal went on again, and as Mr. Leahurst presently returned
to his seat beside Emmie, she took the opportunity of telling him
that, in the opinion of herself and Alwyn, the girl engaged for the
lady’s-maid was even worse than Miss Millbank.

Mr. Leahurst blinked his eyelids and very slowly lit a cigarette.

“Think so?” he said, after a pause.

“I do really.”

“I dessay you’re right.”

This Miss Yates, the incompetent and affected lady’s-maid, came
into the stalls after a little while and talked to him in a
friendly chaffing manner. But he did not stay; he got up and went
off to some sacred managerial room. The young lady flopped down
in a row of stalls at a little distance from Emmie, and occupied
herself with a tiny gold-framed mirror and a lip-stick. She had
brought with her also a large cardboard hat-box. Holding the box on
high, she called to a pallid young man.

“Bertie! Be a dear, and put this in Mr. Leahurst’s car will you?
And ask some one to let me know as soon as he’s ready.”

Both Mildred and Alwyn had been as much amazed as rejoiced on
observing Emmie’s success with Mr. Leahurst. When the rehearsal
was over, each of them in turn thanked her and congratulated her;
and Emmie, pleased with herself without being vainglorious, told
Alwyn how she had plainly said that Miss Millbank was no good.

“Splendid!” cried Alwyn.

“And I told him, too, that the other girl, Miss Yates, was no good
either.”

Alwyn nearly fainted.

“Oh, ye gods! Never mind. It can’t be helped. Come along. Let’s get
some food.”

Soon now people in this theatre and other theatres were asking a
question. What was the matter with Mr. Leahurst? Unheard of things
were happening. He regularly attended rehearsals, and telephoned
for news when he was prevented from attending. He was showing the
most active interest in what was, after all, merely a stop-gap or
fill-in show.

He used to occupy the same stall, smoking, and talking to Miss
Verinder. He told her that it rested him to sit like this and not
be bothered for an hour or so. He said, too, in this connection,
that she herself was “reposeful.”

“Have you ever been told that? I s’pose you have, often.”

At Emmie’s suggestion he got the author to sit with them and
explain the drift of the play.

“Very clever, I’m sure,” said Mr. Leahurst, not in the least
understanding.

Then one day, smiling, he asked her: “Have you set your heart on
this being a success?”

“Yes, I _have_, Mr. Leahurst,” said Emmie earnestly. “You don’t
know how much hangs on it.”

“Well, we must see what can be done.”

He tilted his hat to the back of his head, walked down to the
orchestra, and clapped his hands loudly. Everything stopped,
everybody was turned to stone.

“Mr. Hope,” he said, addressing the producer, “I’m not satisfied.”

“I am very sorry, Mr. Leahurst,” said the producer, in a dreadfully
crestfallen way. “I have done my best.”

“The thing’s not going to be ready by the tenth,” said Mr.
Leahurst. “We’ll postpone production for a fortnight. Tell ’em
there’ll be no call to-morrer.”

Then, in the most autocratic, Napoleonic style, he scrapped the
company. Miss Millbank was whirled away in tears to join a tour at
Scarborough. Marian D’Arcy, ruthlessly torn out of another play,
replaced her. Two of the best-known and highest-priced character
actors of Europe came in, and excellent trustworthy veterans were
engaged to support them in minutely small rôles.

He had turned it into a star cast, and the word went round that
no expense counted. Mr. Leahurst had set his heart on a success.
He came every day “to put ginger” into the fresh producer; he
consulted Alwyn about his press campaign; and already the advance
paragraphing was tremendous. The new scenery, lighting, and dresses
were described as likely to touch a high water mark of combined
taste and costliness.

Everything was new, then--even the lady’s-maid.

“I acted on your hint,” he said to Emmie. “I gave her her marching
papers--in all directions, I mean. Does that satisfy you?”

The excitement grew painful as the date of the postponed first
night drew near. Now the bills were up, outside the theatre. The
morning that they arrived, Mr. Leahurst invited Emmie into a little
office near the stage door and showed her one of them pinned to the
wall. She and Mildred studied it with rapture.

“Sole Lessee, Mr. Crauford. By arrangement with Mr. Somebody-else,
Mr. Leahurst presents”--then came the gigantic lettering--“Marian
D’Arcy and Alwyn Beckett in _The Danger Signal_.”

“That’s more like it, eh?” said Mr. Leahurst.

On the night itself Emmie and Mildred sat hidden in the recesses of
a private box and trembled for forty-seven minutes--that is to say,
till the end of the first act. After that they glowed and squeezed
each other’s hands ecstatically. The act-drop had been raised about
thirteen times, of which the first four raisings were certainly in
accord with the desire of the audience. After the second act there
could not linger even a faint doubt. The thing was unquestionably a
triumphant success.

During this interval Mr. Leahurst came into the box and trumpeted.
Dressed in his ordinary costume of dark grey frock-coat and
trousers, he kept well at the back of the box so as not to be seen
by the public, and he carefully concealed a lighted cigarette with
the palm of his hand in order that nobody should detect that he was
breaking the Lord Chamberlain’s regulations.

The ladies rose and went to welcome him with radiant faces.

“Oh, isn’t it glorious?” cried Mildred, going close to him, and in
her joy seeming as if she wished to throw her arms round his neck
and embrace him. “But we owe it all to you, Mr. Leahurst--every
little bit of it. Alwyn knows that well. And Miss Verinder knows.”

“Don’t mention it,” said Mr. Leahurst, turning to go. “Bother.
Burnt my hand!”

Next morning the entire press confirmed the triumph. “Acclaimed,
without one dissentient note--” as the advertisements said.

Once again, then, a venture of the hardened gambler had turned
up trumps. The money of Miss Verinder was not only safe, she had
made the fortune of Mr. Alwyn Beckett. There were interviews with
him; his photograph was everywhere--Mr. Beckett on the links, Mr.
Beckett snapped in entering the stage door, Mr. Beckett hailing
a taxi-cab. Full-page portraits of him enriched the illustrated
weeklies. And he was nice in his new eminence, not swollen-headed,
but modest and gay, just a manly young fellow, who, although so
ambitious, valued success most of all because it brought him nearer
to the lady of his love.

Mr. Leahurst, celebrating the affair in a manner quite alien to
his custom, gave a magnificent supper-party at one of the most
fashionable hotels, and Miss Verinder was placed at his side, in
the place of honour. There were speeches, but he himself made none.

“Funny thing,” he said to Emmie, during supper, “how things falls
out. To-day I finally got rid of my late wife.”

Emmie started, and looked at him in astonishment.

“What _do_ you mean? Hasn’t Mrs. Leahurst been dead a long time?”

“No, she’s still alive. O’ny decree nisi. Made absolute to-day.”

After supper he asked her if she was satisfied, and he added that
he had given the supper on her account. “I have done everything
that I have done for the purpose of pleasing you.”

Emmie murmured a very faint acknowledgment; and, driving home, she
felt grievously worried in the midst of her elation. Like others,
she asked herself what was the matter with Mr. Leahurst.

But unlike the case of all the others, it was reserved to her to
find out. He came to the flat next day and asked her to marry him.

She noticed how very smart he was directly he came in, also that he
was not smoking; and she was at once fluttered by the complimentary
things he said about the flat.

“Refinement--good taste”; and he glanced sadly here and there.
“That’s what you can’t buy with money. This is a home, Miss
Verinder.”

Then he went straight ahead. “As things go, I’m a rich man. I don’t
ask you what you’ve got, and I don’t want to know. You can keep
yerself in clothes, p’raps? Leave it at that. I’m not after your
money, Miss Verinder. It’s you I want--and the refined comfortable
home you can give me. Inferior by birth and education, granted. But
if I can anyways rise to your level, I mean to try.”

She stopped him as soon as she could, and said the dreadful
conventional things that used to be said on such occasions during
the middle period of Queen Victoria’s reign--to the effect that she
was honoured by his wish, although she could not respond to it,
that she esteemed and respected him, and hoped he might later on be
willing to accept her friendship in lieu of what he had asked for.
But, curiously enough, the things were true. As Miss Millbank would
have put it, she _felt_ them. Through it all there was shining
forth at her the unmistakable fact. This Mr. Leahurst was in truth
a simple kindly creature--a good sort.

“Well, it’s a hideous disappointment. I don’t mind saying I thought
the sympathy was mutual. There, it’s my own fault. I told you,
not accustomed to the ways of ladies--I mean, real ladies--and I
mistook your polite manners.”

“I am so sorry,” said Emmie, in the same mid-Victorian style.

“Well, there’s an end of it.” He picked up his silk hat and malacca
cane, which he had brought into the room just as he had always
seen done by people on the stage. “I bear no malice,” and he moved
towards the door. Then he turned. “Would you mind telling me if
there’s anybody else.”

“Mr. Leahurst,” said Emmie, blushing hotly, “I don’t think you
ought to ask me that.”

“Then one question. You’re not hankering after that young Beckett?”

Emmie was indignant. “Mr. Leahurst! He is going to marry Miss
Parker.”

“That wouldn’t need to make any difference. There’s such funny
arrangements nowadays.”

“Mr. Leahurst!”

“All right.” He spoke in a tone of invincible melancholy. “I’m very
helpless. I s’pose I shall fall back into the clutches of those
girls.”

“Oh, no!” Emmie, scarcely knowing what she said, implored him not
to do that. As in a dream, she heard herself assuring him that he
was meant for a better fate; urging him to be true to himself, to
keep his eyes on the heights, to climb upward from the slough.

He went out dolefully; giving Louisa a couple of one-pound notes,
in order to prove that he bore no malice.

These excitements and interludes had helped her through some of the
months that she had been counting. The pretty little love story was
going to have a happy ending. Mildred, bouncing in and out of the
flat, brimmed over with joy as she described the changed attitude
of her parents. Indeed, if the dear child could have heard Mr.
Parker talking at his club, she might have been able to report a
more rapid progress in the desired direction. For certainly Mr.
Parker showed at the club that he was at least accustoming himself
to the idea of theatrical connections.

“That young man Alwyn Beckett,” said Mr. Parker, “has been offered
two hundred pounds a week to go to America. Till recently I had no
notion that actors’ salaries ever reached such a figure.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said a well-informed member of the club;
“nothing at all, compared with what they get for film-acting.”

“Is that so? Well, Beckett is on the films too. It seems he has
become a universal favourite. We know him personally. He and my
son, Hubert, were up at Cambridge together, and they have never
lost sight of each other.”

Then one day towards the end of February, Mildred danced into the
flat drawing-room and shouted that her father had nearly consented
to recognize an engagement. A word to him from her angelic
Emmeline might now make him surrender altogether.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I am disturbing you.”

Miss Verinder was kneeling on the floor surrounded by maps and open
books. One large map was spread out across the seat of a chair,
and in her hand she held the magnifying glass with which she had
studied its thin lines and minute signs. That dark hair of hers,
still without a touch of grey, flopped loose and untidy; her face
was haggard; her teeth showed strangely as she made a piteous
effort that resulted in a wry, distorted sort of smile. Mildred
drew back frightened, and then came forward with outstretched
hands. This was a Miss Verinder that she had never seen before.

“I am glad, dear. He--he’ll consent. But you mustn’t count on me
any more, Mildred. Yes, yes, yes, I have been upset. But you must
leave me alone, please--you must leave me out of everything.” And
although the girl could see all the old affection in her eyes, her
voice was almost harsh and forbidding. “I--I have no place among
happy people.”



CHAPTER XVII


News had come; and it was bad news. Except that it conveyed
desolation instead of comfort, she did not yet fully understand the
long cablegram from Twining. Its one salient statement had been a
blow sufficiently cruel to strike her down.

Twining had returned to Hobart in the relief ship. He had
returned--without Dyke. He had brought back other people--but not
Dyke.

The message had many map references, and she immediately recognised
the first one--in Latitude seventy-seven degrees, forty minutes,
south. That, of course, was Dyke’s base camp on the Barrier,
near the place from which Captain Scott started. So it had been
arranged. He was to follow Captain Scott’s line. He said it was a
duty to the dead--to carry on the work.

Naturally it was to that point that Twining would go, to succour
and relieve. The message said:--

  “...Have taken away everybody from there. The large party
  that Dyke took with him all safe back. They left him Latitude
  eighty-five degrees south. Dyke going on with two.”

Emmie’s teeth, with retracted lips, began to chatter, and she
repeated the words in a whisper. “Dyke going on--Dyke going on
with two.”

  “I did not meet the _Follower_. As ordered by Dyke, _Follower_
  sailed October last for coast-line Latitude seventy-three degrees
  south, Longitude twenty degrees west of Greenwich. Gladstone
  instructed to make food depôts from Latitude seventy-four south,
  Longitude twenty-two west, to as far south as possible and to
  meet Dyke. Am refitting in haste to start for _Follower’s_ new
  station.”

Twining had not seen Dyke’s own ship, the _Follower_. The
_Follower_ was gone--somewhere else. Why? She could not understand.
And what was the significance of that instruction to make more
food depôts, when all depôts were already provided? On the supply
of food from the base camp southwards depended all the security of
Dyke’s return journey from the Pole. Was there something wrong with
the carefully planned arrangements? Surely this must mean that he
intended to come from the Pole by a slightly different line? But
then--oh, the danger, the horrible danger of altered plans.

Twining had broken up the original base camp; he had taken
everybody away. It could have only one meaning: that Dyke was not
coming back exactly the same way that he had gone. It could not
mean--no, a thousand times no--that he had been so long that they
did not expect him back at all? No, they expected him at this other
place. They were to meet him there.

She fell into a fit of shivering as the thought came to her that
all this had happened months ago. Twining was speaking of events
that were over, done with, for ever. Already Dyke’s journey was a
thing of the past. At this hour Dyke and those two were safe, quite
out of danger, or--

She threw herself face downwards on the bed, writhing and moaning.

Then after a while she set to work with the map again; trying to
locate accurately that last map reference and find the exact point
of the coast-line mentioned as the place of the new base camp to
be established by the _Follower_. In spite of all her training,
she was still apt to get confused in regard to Longitude. Latitude
never troubled her.

Slowly the big map turned in her hands as she followed those thin
north and south lines and the tiny numbers on the Antarctic circle;
and as if with her weak trembling hands she had pushed the world
itself round upon its axis, she stared in horror and amazement.
That point to which Dyke had ordered the _Follower_ was two
thousand miles, a long sea voyage, away from the old place. It was
right across the circle, on the opposite side of the map, facing
Cape Horn instead of Australasia. The coast-line was in Coats
Land. The new food depôts were to be made on the edge of that vast
unknown which stretches from there to the Pole without a single
mark on the map to indicate men’s guesses at the secrets that it
holds.

Then it was as if a bright light burst before her eyes, and she
shook as if an explosion had set the room and the whole house
rocking. She had understood at last the audacity and magnitude of
Dyke’s aim.

He had never intended to retrace his steps. He meant to go straight
on past the Pole, through the unknown, unguessed-at regions on that
other side, straight on, right across the circle.

Presently she was sitting on the edge of her bed, crying, and
talking aloud. “O Tony, this is too bad of you. It isn’t right.
It isn’t fair. You have broken the spirit of our agreement, if not
the letter. You knew very well that I would not have allowed it,
if I had been consulted. And you said I should be consulted--you
said my word was law--at the time I gave you the money.” She
went on talking, half hysterically, just as a mother talks when
news reaches her from a distance of a wild son’s reckless and
inexcusable behaviour; saying the things that even she, his mother,
would have been forced to say to him, had he been here within sound
of her voice. “No, Tony, I can’t, I can’t forgive you for this. You
could not have done it if you had thought of me.”

       *       *       *       *       *

She went almost at once to Devonshire, in order to be with his
father during this dreadful time.

Following on that cablegram from Lieutenant Twining to the unhappy
patron and mock chieftain of the expedition, there came all sorts
of messages from press correspondents in Tasmania. But evidently
Twining had told them very little. They did not know what Emmie
knew. Soon however the name of Dyke once more became prominent in
English newspapers.

Silent and oblivious all this time, they now took him up again in
the interesting uncertainty as to his fate. The famous explorer
lost, became worth space again. Anthony Dyke missing, gone from
human ken, long over-due, was naturally more valuable than Anthony
Dyke alive and well, ready to answer our representative’s questions
at the end of a telephone wire. He took rank as a sensation that
appealed to all readers, and was featured only less conspicuously
than some Miss Jenkins, a pretty golden-haired flapper of
seventeen, who started from home to go to a cinema palace three
weeks ago and has not been seen or heard of since. A strange
disappearance! His old photographs were brought out. His whole
career was narrated--briefly, and without any intimate details that
might discount his obituary notices. These were all ready, waiting.

As the weeks passed and the view of the newspapers grew more
gloomy, their writers became more and more complimentary. They
spoke of him as “the great Englishman.” They said that even after
a war which had shown us by hundreds of instances how the fire of
patriotism can overcome the disability of age, one must yet feel
dumb with admiration as one thought of such an enterprise as this
being undertaken by a man of sixty-two. They wished they could
entertain any real hope that he would ultimately work his way back
to safety, but they must point to the adverse opinion of an expert
(in another column) who reminded one that the factors of time and
food allowed no possibility of delay. Neither seals nor birds would
be met with. And to eat the sledge dogs, when it became necessary,
meant destroying the means of rapid movement. They feared that,
at this date, there could be little doubt that the tragedy of ten
years ago had been re-enacted. Dyke and his two companions had
perished on their way back to the base. And venerable admirals,
writing in confirmation of this verdict, paid eloquent tributes and
called it a national loss.

It was a part of Emmie’s task at Endells to keep all these horrible
newspapers out of reach of the poor old man. She said it merely
lacerated one’s feelings to read them, and, as they were without
information that he and she possessed, their opinion was quite
valueless.

Twining’s letter came to her at Endells six weeks after his cabled
message. He was scarcely more hopeful than the newspapers. And a
little after this the newspapers themselves ceased to speak of
Dyke. There was no more to be said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Plainly old Mr. Dyke’s bodily strength was ebbing fast. That seat
on the cliff saw them no more. It was as much as he could do to
walk to church, with the aid of Emmie’s arm. In church he sat while
others stood or kneeled; and always when the time came for the
curate to read the prayer of promise that when two or three are
gathered together in God’s name their requests will be granted,
Emmie saw his hands, and then his whole body, begin to tremble.
He used to close his eyes, and Emmie, looking down at him, saw
the deep lines on his shrunken cheeks, his veined eyelids, and
his bloodless lips, all in a sort of fluttering movement that was
produced by the rapidity of his breathing.

In the mild spring weather they drove in a little old-fashioned
phaeton with a staid old pony--Emmie driving and the old man at her
side--through the deep-sunk lanes, never on the high road, along
the sheltered valleys and sometimes high enough on the hillside to
find a point where, stopping for a few minutes to rest the pony,
they could look through the bars of a field gate across sloping
grass land to the wide calm sea. He loved these outings in the
pony carriage, and they did him good. They talked all the while of
Anthony; he as a rule telling her of incidents connected with his
son’s youth or early manhood, and she generally speaking of things
that were to be done in the future. They comforted each other as
best they could.

“As soon as he comes home, Mr. Dyke, he must help you to make the
tenants do their duty in repairing these banks. They really are
neglecting them.”

“Yes, I’ll get him to help me about that--and other matters. I am
afraid I have been negligent myself this last year. But if Tony
will settle down here, and--”

“Oh, he promised. He’ll keep his promise. He promised us both that
he would never go away again.”

For although they did not attempt to conceal the torture of
anxiety that both were suffering, neither had ever admitted even
a transient fear that their belief in his return might not be
justified. Nothing should shake her own faith, and she thought that
the old man’s faith was as firm. But then, during one of these
drives, he unconsciously allowed her to divine that it was not so.

They had been almost laughing as they spoke of the remarkable fact
that Mr. Sturgess, the doctor, had added a really new anecdote to
his repertory.

“It would have amused Tony to know that,” said Mr. Dyke.

“I will tell him in my next letter,” said Emmie.

The old man turned his thin nose and dim eyes, and looked at her in
startled wonder.

“Do you mean,” he said, “that you are still writing to him?”

“Of course I am,” she said, with a gasp. “I write every week now,
instead of once a fortnight. Naturally there will be a great many
letters--counting those that Mr. Twining had taken with him on
the _Heather Bell_. And Tony won’t get the rest till he arrives
at Hobart. But he’ll like having them, no matter how many they
are”; and she tried to smile. “He can read them--or glance through
them--on the voyage home.” Then her voice broke. “Oh, dear Mr.
Dyke, you have hurt me so dreadfully. Why did you seem surprised?
Why did you look at me like that--as if you thought it was useless
to go on writing to him?”

“My dearest Emmie, nothing of the sort.” The old fellow made a
gallant effort to speak firmly and cheerfully. “You are absolutely
right. I don’t know what I _was_ thinking about. My mind had
wandered--it does now, occasionally. Yes, tell him that Sturgess
has been to London and learnt a fresh tale. Tell him all the news.
Abertors! Don’t forget to say that Abertors has been let furnished.”

No one believed really, except her. Only she who did not dare to
doubt, contrived to go on believing. The others merely pretended.
In the village the kindly friendly little shop people assumed a
pitying expression that betrayed them at once.

“Mr. Dyke du sim poorly. Very old he is, for sure,” said Mrs.
Prince, the post-mistress, to Miss Verinder, who was buying stamps.
“A great age it is--and now what with his grief to--”

Miss Verinder, so firm as to seem stern and haughty, said that Mr.
Dyke was feeling anxiety but no grief. Why should he grieve when
there was nothing to grieve about?

“Oh, have yu a’ had good tidings, miss?” asked the post-mistress
eagerly.

“No, it is improbable that we shall have tidings of any kind
for a long time. I have told you so, again and again. Don’t you
understand that the seasons are different down there?”

“Yes, miss, so you did mention to my husband.”

“Down there the winter is beginning. The ship that has gone to
look for Mr. Anthony will encounter frozen seas. Mr. Anthony’s own
ship--unless he has already got away--will be fast in the ice. If
so, he cannot be expected at any navigable port until the autumn.”

It was just the same with those old servants at the house.
Talking to her of Master Anthony they spoke, as their master did,
nearly always of his youth. Hannah, standing with Emmie in his
dressing-room, pointed down into the walled garden and said how
when he was quite a little chap, and she herself a young girl, he
had a lovely black velvet suit with a lace collar; and wearing this
much admired costume, he lay upon the grass down there on an April
day. Then a sharp shower began; but Master Anthony, never seeming
to notice the downpour, still lay there, till he was wet through
and through. “Oh, there was a to-do, for fear he should take cold.”
Everybody in the house had loved the child.

All this was naturally put by Hannah into the past tense; but
Emmie, wincing, noticed that Hannah still used the same tense as
she went on to speak of later days, when she said how it was his
kindness, his unfailing kindness, that had won the hearts not only
of the tenants but of every man and woman for miles round.

“Yes,” said Hannah finally, with a sigh, “he was a kind gentleman.”

“He is a kind gentleman,” said Miss Verinder. “And a great hero
too. As you’ll say, when he comes home and all the world is
praising him.”

“I’m sure we do hope so, miss.”

But she knew that they merely acted hope; they had no hope, truly.
She ceased to talk to them in the friendly open way that had become
habitual. She let the house itself talk to her about him, and not
its servants.

Everything spoke of him. There was not a room that had not legends
to tell and memories to revive. Sometimes on these mornings of
early spring she went by herself into his dressing-room, and
remained there for a long while. It was a large comfortable room,
beautifully neat and clean, smelling of lavender; with two spacious
walnut wardrobes, a big writing-table, and chairs covered in
newly-washed chintz--a room that seemed to have been occupied quite
recently and to be waiting for some one to use it again to-morrow.
She opened the latticed casements more widely to let in more air
and sunlight, and stood looking down into the little garden, and
thought of him, dreamed of him. In imagination she could hear him
down below on the terrace, banging away at the cook’s box as he
and the electrician mended it--a splendid grey-haired giant, full
of power and will. In imagination she could see him moving along
the grass path between the crocuses and daffodils--a child dressed
in black velvet and white lace; a child with a man’s great soul
already developing in him, careless of rain and storm, incapable of
petty fears, daring and yet loving nature.

Sometimes she played with his things, rearranging the writing
materials in the small cabinet on the table, or she opened the
wardrobes, and fetching out the old-fashioned garments, shook them,
brushed them, refolded them. This made him seem more certainly
alive. These things were not a dead man’s property.

“But he shan’t wear them again,” she said to herself. “We’ll make a
bonfire of them. It is absurd not to have got rid of them ages ago.
I won’t have him looking as he did that last Christmas, in this
horrid little black coat. No, we’ll have a bonfire.”

At night when Mr. Dyke had gone to bed and all the house was
shuttered and barred, she sat alone by the dying embers in the
oak parlour, or stood looking into the round mirrors as if almost
expecting that they would show a reflection of something more than
emptiness behind her. She had then a feeling of vagueness and
unreality, and it seemed to her that she too was acting. What was
it all about--this tightening of the throat, this beating of the
heart, this hot dull aching of the brain? Why had she begun to pace
the room, like a tragedy queen, with clenched hands and wild eyes?
Pretence? There was no real necessity for these exaggerated poses
in order to shew an empty room and a vacant chair the ravages of
mental agony.

“Courage, Emmie. Sit down. Don’t walk about.”

Who said that? She stood listening and trembling. No one, of
course. But it was what he would have said, had he been here. The
place was not really haunted. There are no ghosts--and if there
were ghosts they must be ghosts of the dead not of the living.
No one had spoken. She had merely supplied ordinary words to an
ordinary thought.

She sat down on one side of the hearth and looked at the big deep
chair on the other side of it. She had found him sitting there that
Christmas eve long after she herself had gone upstairs, long after
midnight. She had come down again. The fire had burnt itself out,
the hearth was cold, and he was so completely lost in thought that
he did not hear her slippered footfall. She had known then that she
must let him go, that she could not keep him with her, that the
sacrifice was inevitable.

“Tony,” she had said, “this is disgraceful of you. What do you mean
by staying down here, hours after you ought to have been in bed?”

“If it comes to that,” he said, shaking off his reverie and
speaking gaily, “why haven’t you gone to bed yourself?”

And again it was as though she heard his voice, clear and distinct,
speaking to her from the empty chair in this haunted room.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was sleeping very badly at this time, often hearing the church
clock strike the hours till dawn before she fell into light dozes.
Now in the middle of the night there came a knocking at the door of
her room. Startled, she called out loudly.

The door opened a little way, and the old man spoke to her.

“Emmie, forgive me. Can you get up? I have something to tell you.”

She had turned on the light, and hastily putting a cloak round
her she went to him in the corridor. He was wrapped in the loose
folds of a dressing-gown, so white and feeble a thing as seen thus,
so bony and thin, that his aspect gave her a new shock of pain.
Because of the confusion of his spirit, forgetting the electric
light, he carried a candle that was guttering and smoking in his
shaky hand.

“What’s the matter, Mr. Dyke? Are you ill?” And she took the candle
from him and blew it out.

“No, dear--not ill. But I have been thrown into great agitation by
a dream. Emmie dear, I am still under the influence of it. Help me.
It was like a vision. But dare one attach importance to it? Emmie,
it was so wonderful. I did not know I was asleep--but I suppose I
must have been.”

“Oh, Mr. Dyke, what was it?” She too was shaking now, so much that
the candle fell from its socket and rolled against the wainscoat.
“Tell me what it was.”

“Anthony,” he said.

“Yes, Anthony. I knew it”; but she clung to him. “What did you see?
What did you hear?”

“I saw him, but I could not hear anything.”

“Dead?”

“No, alive. Oh, yes, I saw him move--he raised his arm, he seemed
to hold his hand to his eyes, and then--But, Emmie, I heard
nothing. That’s what makes me so doubtful. Tell me what _you_
think. No, don’t tell me--I can’t get rid of this agitation. I
can’t think clearly.” Then it was as if the old man had suddenly
convinced himself. “Why should I doubt? He is alive. My boy, my boy
still lives. Some merciful power has sent me this message.”

“Yes, yes--that is what we will think. But, dear Mr. Dyke, you
mustn’t stay here or you will catch cold.” And with her arm round
him she led him back into his room.

He looked about him vaguely.

“Get back to bed now.”

“Yes, dear. But first I want to tell you all. I want to describe
everything, for you to remember it. He seemed to be shading his
eyes with his hand, looking forward. And when he dropped his hand
I saw the face very bright, with a very strong light upon it--like
the strongest sunshine. He wasn’t alone, Emmie. There was some one
else, on the ground by his feet. And then he seemed to be calling
out--though I couldn’t hear. Yet I seemed to understand that he was
calling to me--asking me to wait for him--or to stay with him--not
to desert him. Then, Emmie dear, though there was no sound to his
voice, I spoke myself. I called to him to be quick, because I
couldn’t wait. Then, immediately it was gone--and I felt I must go
to you.”

“Yes, yes. I’m glad you came. But now--”

“Emmie, I don’t like to ask you. Yes, I will. Pray with me a
minute. When two or three are gathered together. Would you mind?
You said once that you did believe in some universal power. Well,
will you pray to that? I don’t know if I believe in much else
myself. Everything is slipping from me.”

He sank upon his knees, and Emmie took the quilt from the bed and
held it round him, kneeling by his side while he prayed. It was
pitiful, heart-rending, the weak, weak voice quavering breathlessly
in the silent night.

“O merciful God, make this thing true. O God of mercy grant our
prayer. Have mercy on us, have mercy on us. Oh, spare my boy. Have
mercy on my brave boy. Grant to us two who love him that he may
come back to us safely.”

She got him into bed again, covered him warmly, and he feebly
pressed her hand.

“Thank you, dear Emmie. That was kind of you. Yes, when two or
three are gathered together. Very kind. But you are always kind.”

She stayed there for some time after he had fallen asleep, and then
went back to her room. She was exhausted by the agitation that had
been communicated to her; but before lying down she wrote a note
in her memorandum book. “During the night of April 18-19, Mr. Dyke
dreamed that he saw Tony,” and so on. Then, worn out, she slept
deeply, dreamlessly.

Louisa, rousing her in the morning, said that Mr. Dyke was ill and
Dr. Sturgess had been sent for.

The poor old man was light-headed, babbling confusedly, unable
to recognize Emmie or anybody else; and Dr. Sturgess told her
immediately that the illness could have but one termination.

A little more than a fortnight later she was writing to Anthony to
tell him of his loss.

  “...We had Dr. Gordon Giles over from Plymouth, and two very good
  nurses from Exeter. We did everything that was possible. It began
  with a chill, then it was a dreadful rapid pneumonia that simply
  burned him up. He had no strength to withstand the disease, and
  both doctors agreed that in any case he could only have lived a
  very little longer.

  “You know, dear Tony, that he felt himself that his course was
  nearly run. He said to me before you left that he would not be
  here to welcome you home. Of course you will grieve, but you must
  take consolation in thinking of his long, long life, and of all
  the pride and joy that came to him from being your father. He
  loved you so much. In the night when his illness began he had a
  very vivid dream about you; and I shall ask you later whether you
  were thinking of us at that particular time. On that same night I
  had myself a strange feeling that you seemed near to us. Can it
  be that, with your dear father standing on the borderland, and
  the veil, as they call it, become very thin, he was indeed able
  to reach you in the spirit? I wonder. You and I will talk of this.

  “You know, dear Tony, that I loved him. Indeed, how could I do
  anything else, when he was so good to me from the very beginning?

  “I have attended to all business matters with Mr. Sadler, and
  everything is all right. The house will be carried on as you
  would wish, and of course none of the servants will be dismissed.
  I know you would not like any petty economies to be made. You can
  trust old Hannah to keep order and see that your home is ready
  for you when you return to it.

  “I am going back to London to-morrow.”

She shut herself in the flat, and would see no one--not loyal
Mrs. Bell clambering up those steep stairs breathlessly, not even
affectionate, grateful Mildred lightly springing up them to be
rebuffed at the guarded door again and again, not anyone at all.
She had ceased to count the months now, dreading the tale of them,
refusing to recognize their numbers. She only knew, by the warm air
and the brilliant sunbeams that sent dancing fire between the leafy
branches of the plane-tree, that it was high summer and that all
the world of the noisy streets was gay.

Reverting to an old habit, she used to go out at night, and even
then it was not dark enough to harmonise with her thoughts. Louisa
always accompanied her. They crossed the Brompton Road, seeking the
silence and darkness beside the closed churchyard, wandered through
Ennismore Gardens into Prince’s Gate; flitting like ghosts in the
grey lamp-light and vanishing in the grey shadow--like two faded
and fading ghosts that haunted the broad roads and empty spaces
which they had both known in lifetime and youth. On into Queen’s
Gate, past its largest house, shrinking from those lighted windows
and the sound of music; along the Cromwell Road, round and about
the once animated neighbourhood; to and fro--thus they did their
phantom walk, night after night.

She could not bear the sight of the daylight crowd. She felt hatred
and contempt for these thousands of well-fed comfortable people who
ate, slept, and amused themselves in mean security, while the great
men, the heroes, the Dykes of the world, were giving their noble
lives to distant peril and toil. Nothing short of an urgent call of
duty would force her to face the garish sunlight and the heartless
mob.

But such a summons came, and with Louisa she went for two days to
that town in the midlands.

They returned by an evening train, sitting side by side at a table
in the Pullman car; Emmie looking pale and well-bred, Louisa
grey-haired, solid, severe, but so well-dressed and dignified as to
seem a friend of the other lady and not her servant. No one would
have noticed them or thought about them, if they had not aroused a
little curious attention by asking for tea and eggs instead of the
table-d’hôte dinner that the rest of the passengers were devouring.
When they had finished their tea, Louisa put on spectacles and read
the _Strand Magazine_; while Miss Verinder thought of what had
happened at Upperslade Park, and of what this release might have
meant to her once, a long time ago, many, many years ago. Coming
now, it seemed like the last cruel mockery of fate.

That same night, although she was very tired, she wrote to Anthony
to tell him of this second death.

  “...Dr. Wenham says that in such cases the end very often
  comes like this, with haemorrhage (I do not think I have spelt
  it correctly) of the brain. Poor soul, she never recovered
  consciousness and she passed away quite peacefully without any
  suffering. And I want to say that I am quite sure she really
  loved you at first, dear Tony, and that, so far as anything like
  connected thought or sustained feeling was possible to a person
  in that darkened condition, she loved you to the last. She never
  forgot you; she always spoke of you.

  “You will be surprised at my saying all this, but I will explain
  by telling you something that I have not told you till now. Only
  do not for a moment suppose that I kept it back because I was
  afraid you might not approve. I knew very well that you would
  think it right and wish me to do it; as it was what you used to
  do yourself until your work prevented you. I said nothing to you
  simply because I did not want to trouble you.

  “For a number of years I have been in touch with her, and have
  regularly visited the asylum. Dr. Wenham seemed to think that
  my visits did her good, as proving to her that there was still
  somebody in the world who took an interest in her; although I
  cannot say that I ever could see that she felt this. At any rate,
  by going I was enabled to make sure that she was being well
  treated and having good food, and so on. This, I think, you will
  be glad to know. After the death of that hateful aunt of hers, it
  seemed that, except you and me, there was literally nobody who
  even knew of her existence.

  “I will explain everything else about it when we meet.”

She continued to write to him even more often; telling him about
Louisa or the cat, telling him anything that could possibly
interest him.

  “They say the price of food has fallen again, but Louisa says the
  good shops are as dear as ever.... Mildred Parker is going to
  be married early in September. I wish I had you here to help me
  choose a present for her. I feel so dull and uninventive that I
  dare say I shall sneak out of the difficulty by sending a cheque.
  Mildred is a dear girl.”

After the evening walk she used to sit at her desk, with only her
reading lamp to make a bright circle of light and with all the rest
of the room in darkness. If not writing a letter to him, she read
his old letters to her. The thin paper rustled and shook in the
lamp-light; and it seemed to her that the man whom all the world
believed to be dead was standing close behind her; that at any
moment he might step forward, put his hand upon her shoulder, and
speak to her.

Did she still truly believe that he was alive? She went on writing
to him. In some oppressively hot weather during the month of August
she suffered from great lassitude; her head ached day after day,
and noises in the head bothered her. Louisa wanted her to see a
doctor, but she resolutely refused. Alone in the room, with the
sides and corners of it all vague and shadowy, where the light
of her single lamp did not reach them, she distressed herself by
imaging that she could hear voices--not his voice ever, the voices
of other people, strangers, talking about Anthony. It was not an
illusion; because she knew perfectly well that she was merely
imagining it. This imagined talk was just a translation of her own
thoughts. But she could not stop it; for a little while it was
quite beyond her control.

These unknown imaginary people were saying that he was alive and
they had seen him. They had met him in Bond Street. “Yes, I didn’t
recognize him at first. I thought, there’s a thundering big man.
Where have I seen those big shoulders before? Then I saw it was
Dyke. You know, the man they said had perished five hundred miles
on the other side of the Pole. Anthony Dyke. Dyke. Dyke. Dyke!”

And suddenly she began to laugh and beat upon the desk with her
open hand. A thought had come to her that seemed to be at once
tragic and ludicrous. “Am I going mad?” she asked herself; and for
perhaps a minute she laughed unrestrainedly. “That would be too
bad,” she said, aloud. “No, I won’t go out of my mind, Tony. It
wouldn’t be fair--for you to have had a mad mistress as well as a
mad wife”; and she became quite quiet again. Then, looking round,
she saw that Louisa had entered the room.

“I’ve nothing to do,” said Louisa. “May I sit in here with you till
you go to bed?”

“No,” said Emmie. “Leave me alone, please.”

“I fancied I heard something--as if you were making a noise.”

“Don’t believe what you hear,” said Emmie, with a faint smile, “and
only half that you see”; and the smile vanishing, her face became
rigid.

On another night she suddenly sprang up from her desk, hurried
across to the door, and turned on all the light switches. Every
lamp glowed and grew bright. She had been on the point of starting
a letter when an agony of horror and dread took possession of
her. She stood now clinging to the back of a chair, her teeth
chattering, her face ghastly. He was dead--while the horror lasted
she seemed, in this brightly-lit room, to have visions of him. She
saw him lying stiff on the snow, a huge black form stretched upon
the dazzling whiteness. And she saw him seated, staring at her,
with his hands clasped about his knees--like those frozen figures
in the Andes--dead now for many months.

She made no noise. She fought the hallucination, she fought the
abominable mind-destroying thoughts that had produced it; she
fought, as if for her own life and his. And gradually the horror
passed, the anguish lessened. Finally they were gone.

She sat down at the desk again, shaking and sobbing. Her tears fell
upon the paper after she had written a few words, so that she had
to tear it up and throw it away. Then, drying her eyes, she started
once more.

  “...You must never leave me after this. I have your solemn
  promise, have not I? I couldn’t stand any more of it, the
  loneliness. I _must_ feel that when I put out my hand it will
  touch you and not close upon the empty air. You must, you must
  give me a few happy years after all the waiting. You said once
  you could be happy with me in Devonshire--in the dear west
  country that people have called the land of sunsets. That’ll seem
  the right place, Tony, for _our_ sunset--I mean, the closing of
  our day.

  “Oh, Tony”--and she had another fit of sobbing before she could
  go on writing--“God or Fate cannot mean to separate us. If you
  were dead I should die too. Not by my own hand. But I simply
  could not go on living without you.

  “There.” She was dabbing her eyes; and after forcing back the
  tears, she sniffed courageously. “You will read this and laugh
  your big laugh, and make a noise of crackers with your bony
  fingers, and think how cowardly and faint-hearted your little
  Emmie has become. I wasn’t cowardly in the beginning, was I,
  darling? It is the waiting that has worn me out and broken my
  nerve. Good-night and God bless you and guard you.”

She refused now even to glance at the newspapers; she would not
look at anything that could remind her of the passing days--those
days that she dared not count. September was close upon her, and
still she went on writing to him.

Old Louisa came into the room late one night, to fetch the cat.

“Won’t you go to bed, miss?”

“No,” said Emmie, “I am busy. I have something to finish.”

“Is it so very important?” asked Louisa. “Won’t it keep?”

Emmie answered with great firmness. “No, it won’t. The mail goes
to-morrow. I am writing to Mr. Dyke.”

Louisa looked at her.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” said Emmie, wildly and
fiercely. “I tell you I’m writing to Mr. Dyke.”

“Yes, miss,” said Louisa; and she went out of the room very softly,
leaving the cat. “I’ll come back,” she whispered, on the threshold.

  Emmie wrote: “Darling, it is late, and Louisa is fussing. You
  know her ways. Well, I have told you all my gossip, and made it
  another long letter to add to the pile you will have to wade
  through. _Au revoir_, my beloved. Good-night. Good-night.”

September had come; and Mildred Parker was talking to her on the
telephone, reminding her that there would be no Miss Parker after
Thursday next, but a Mrs. Beckett instead.

Mildred spoke of the wedding arrangements, the inexhaustible
success of _The Danger Signal_, the amazing affability and good
humour of Mr. Parker.

“He monopolises Alwyn. He trots about after him and crows over him
as if Alwyn was a wonderful egg that he had laid, or a treasure
that he had pecked out of the gravel. Sometimes I can’t get near
Ally because of him. Honestly, Emmeline, he and mummy both go on
as if it was they who had found me a husband, and I ought to thank
them on my knees for finding me such a nice one.” And Emmie heard
the girl’s fresh young laughter.

Then Mildred spoke seriously and with intense affection. She said
she knew quite well that Emmeline had some great sorrow, and it had
almost broken her heart to be stopped always by that inexorable
door, and never once to be allowed to give a hug of sympathy. She
was thinking of Emmeline constantly. She hoped and prayed that
Emmeline’s private grief, whatever it might be, would presently
pass away.

“Thank you, Mildred.”

Then Mildred gave thanks for the cheque, saying she felt ashamed to
take it because it was “such a whopper.” And after that she said,
although she must not urge Emmeline to come to the wedding itself,
she wondered if Emmeline would feel up to coming to a little
afternoon party at which friends would see the presents all laid
out on tables.

“No, dear. I’m afraid you must excuse me.”

“All right,” said Mildred. “Then I won’t be hateful and selfish
about it. Only I hope you do know, darling Emmeline, what a
tremendous difference it would make to us, and how dreadfully,
_dreadfully_ I miss you. I am so happy that I must not say it
spoils my happiness. No, that would be wicked, and ungrateful
too--when perhaps I really owe it all to you. But if anything
_could_ spoil it for me, it would be your absence.... One moment.
Can you hold on, please? Alwyn wants to speak to you himself.”

Then she heard the young man’s voice, deep and strong, yet very
musical; seeming to vibrate with tenderness although so firm.

“Miss Verinder, is that you? I wanted to say I feel just what
Mildrings feels. It would make all the difference in the world to
us. I must not press it, but I shall think it most awfully ripping
of you if you do come.”

She went. It was another fight with herself; but if her presence
would really give any pleasure to this girl and boy, why should she
spare her own pain?

Louisa dressed her with great care, in one of those greyish frocks
covered in transparent black lace and gauze that, except for their
length or shortness, belong to no particular age and fashion. Her
shoes, stockings and hat were of the most modern style.

“Can I wear a veil with this hat?” asked Emmie.

“I should certainly wear a veil,” said Louisa, looking at the dark
circles round her eyes, and at that something more than pallor, the
dull opaque waxenness of complexion that comes to people when for a
long time they have been deprived of sunlight.

Like all such small parties, it was a very big one. The house in
Ennismore Gardens was scarcely large enough for it. Mildred and
her future husband devoted themselves to Miss Verinder, waiting
upon her at tea, whispering the names of celebrated actors and
actresses, then leading her through the throng, and taking her
upstairs to see the lovely presents.

The presents and the long tables occupied both the back and the
front drawing-room, and all about them there was pressure and
excitement. The great majority of the guests were young people;
their bright faces glowed with life and hope. The atmosphere seemed
full of pretty, kindly thoughts. Even the stout and heavy elders
felt a stirring of sentimental memories and an over-brimming
sympathy. It was so pleasant to think of the happy young girl
about to be united, amidst the joy and satisfaction of parents and
relatives, to the honest young man that she loved.

Only here and there a matron of years pushed along the tables
anxiously and murmured to herself or a friend. “I suppose it’s
here. But I haven’t yet seen my silver and tortoise-shell pin tray.”

Then all at once Emmie heard or thought she heard voices saying
Anthony’s name. It was like that semi-illusion of the flat--the
imagined voices of strangers talking about him. “Dyke--yes, Dyke.”
These people just ahead of her were saying the words. She moved
towards them, listening.

“Yes, found by the relief party.... Yes, Dyke. Anthony Dyke, the
explorer.... Extraordinary. Given up by everybody. Risen from the
dead, as it were. If he has a wife and children, what must be their
feelings?”

She asked one of them what all this meant.

“That man Dyke has been found--alive, you know.”

“But is it a fact?” she asked quietly. “Who says so?”

They said the news had been cabled; it was in the evening papers,
at the clubs, everywhere.

She turned and took Mildred’s arm.

“Mildred, dear, I want to go home. Help me to get away quietly. A
taxi-cab.”

“Yes, at once.” Mildred, distressed and solicitous, took her down
by a back staircase. “But dear Emmeline, what is it? You’re ill.
You’re trembling--oh, you’re crying.”

“No, I’m not ill. Everything is quite all right. Only I’m a little
hysterical--for the moment.”

At the flat a cablegram was waiting for her.

“Done the trick. Coming home. Love. Tony.”



CHAPTER XVIII


He had got it now--the fame, the glory, the unsubstantial but
glittering payment for a life spent in solid and incredibly arduous
toil.

Never again would his name be left out of lists; never again
would his publicity agent feel compelled to write reminders or
corrections to the morning papers. As to the great achievement
itself, very little need be said here. Indeed, as Emmie is already
engaged in preparing for publication the two large volumes which
will be entitled _The Sixth Cruise_, any attempt to give a detailed
account of Dyke’s final triumph would be at least premature, if not
superfluous.

Suffice it then to say that with this last expedition there were no
accidents. Not only the leader but his two companions won through
to safety; and in regard to the minor journeys, the scientific
researches, the geographical investigations, all went well.
Everything scraped up from the bottom of the sea, the collection
of minerals chipped off the land, the measurements, records, and
diaries, were duly brought home to England. Honours from all
countries, including his own, were showered upon the illustrious
explorer. As has become customary on these occasions, it was
immediately announced that the King had been graciously pleased to
confer a knighthood upon Mr. Dyke.

To Miss Verinder that knighthood was a uniquely tremendous affair.
She refused to remember that quite a large number of knights had
been created during the last half century. Those did not count. She
thought only of one or two who were like her man, real knights;
and she added five or six more from Elizabethan times to make up
the splendid company. Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir
Richard Grenville, Sir John Hawkins, and Sir Anthony Dyke--the
linked names rang grandly in her ears.

His title seemed to echo itself like music or the sound of bells,
as she walked briskly away from the flat early one morning in
October. She felt joyous and strong, not minding the fog, not
fearing the motor traffic. It was not really a fog, rather a ground
mist; an exhilarating morning of late autumn, with the sun and the
mist contending for victory.

In fact, when she had left the Brompton Road, the sun showed itself
behind her, high over the hidden houses, shining from a faint yet
open blue sky. She stood for a moment at the bottom of Exhibition
Road and admired. On this left-hand pavement a stream of students,
girls and men, were hurrying onward to their classes and lectures.
The right-hand pavement was quite empty; and, looking beyond it,
one had a sense of vague grandeurs, a perception of domes high
and still fog-shrouded. Ahead, the broad smooth road glistened
like dark water beneath the shredding veils of whiteness; the long
perspective line made by the unbroken cornice of the houses showed
above the mist, and the side wall of a roof of one house, at the
turning into Prince’s Gardens, was all sunlit; nearer, the block of
building that is known as the Royal College of Science was already
emerging, freeing itself, getting definite and illumined, with its
walls of delicate rose and upper story of yellow ochre, and a
sketchy suggestion of columns; while the farthest end of the vista
remained almost lost in the denser mist clouds that were rolling
out from the grass of Hyde Park. The whole prospect seemed that of
a larger, grander Venice, with the road converted into its splendid
silent canal.

She walked on. Gradually and yet very swiftly, as she had seen
happen once before, among the mountains of a distant land, the
conquering sun tore the veils away and reached all things with its
magic touch. Colour and brightness sprang towards the searching
rays. Geraniums glowed in dilapidated flower beds of the sunk
garden of the Natural History Museum; orange, crimson, and gold
flashed from the dead leaves on its sodden paths. When she came to
the first turn to the left, that road was quite lovely--an avenue
of green trees, marble pavements, and tremulous light; the Imperial
Institute seeming like a palace built of dreams; high towers
without base or foundation, masonry swimming in air, domes and more
domes; and over all, the dome of domes, the high vaulted sky.

She went through the avenue of wonder, into Queen’s Gate. The sun
had conquered. Light, not darkness ruled the world. And she thought
that the world is beautiful, most beautiful, every part of it--even
this Kensington, of straight lines, right angles, and stucco faces.

Miss Verinder walked on, with sunshine and joy in her heart,
thinking that great things cannot perish in this beautiful world;
thinking that fate gives freely and robs with regret; thinking
that love is like the sunshine, the source and fountain of life;
thinking that her hero had lived and not died, that her knight was
coming back to her and soon would touch her hand.

Presently the newspapers were adding to profuse accounts of the
home-coming what they called “an interesting announcement.”
They said that a delightful touch of romance had been given to
the return of Sir Anthony by the fact (now for the first time
disclosed) that he had come back “to claim a bride.”

When claimed, Miss Verinder displayed coyness or diffidence;
resuming that slightly mid-Victorian manner, while she asked him,
in effect, if he really meant it, if he really wanted it, and so
forth. It was only the second proposal of marriage that she had
ever received; and perhaps the embarrassment caused by the first
one automatically revived itself, making her a little uncomfortable
now. As in the first case, the drawing-room of the flat served as
scenic decoration or background to the romantic affair.

“What’s that you’re saying?” asked Dyke loudly, not catching the
purport of her murmured doubts. He had come back in glorious
health; but the deafness, of which he had once seemed to be cured,
had again grown very apparent. He was distinctly hard of hearing.

“Emmie, my angel, I don’t understand. What’s that you’re jabbering
about serious wishes?”

Then Emmie became entirely her natural self; her gentle eyes filled
with tears, and she asked him if it was worth while.

“Emmie, what on earth do you mean?”

“If we marry, won’t it set people talking? Won’t it seem
undignified--even a little silly?”

“Oh, Emmie!” He looked at her reproachfully, and said what he used
to say in the very beginning of things. “Oh, Emmie, don’t spoil it
for me.”

And eagerly and ardently he told her that his real true joy in
all the success and praise was derived from the knowledge that she
could now openly share everything with him, that he would be able
proudly to show her and boast of her to the world not only as his
patron and financial supporter, but also as his _fiancée_.

“I’ve hundreds of people that I want to introduce to you--my
_fiancée_.” He said the word with a poor French accent but an
immense relish. “So, no more nonsense, you angel. Tell me you
didn’t mean what you said.”

Perhaps she had not really meant it. Or, at any rate, she
had meant finally to do whatever he wished. Yielding then to
his importunity--as the dear old conventional books used to
narrate--she consented to name the day. It was not a far-off day.

He said he would not have a quiet wedding. No, certainly not. It
must be a slap-up affair, with a huge reception at the Hyde Park
Hotel. She shrank from this fuss, but he wanted it. That was enough
for her.

Also he insisted that it should be a marriage by banns.

Immediately after the interesting announcement congratulations and
presents began to pour in upon them. At tea-time on these jolly
autumn afternoons spent by Sir Anthony and his _fiancée_ in shops
and streets and other public places, Louisa brought in with her
tray prodigious piles of letters, which her future master tore
open, read aloud, and tossed about the floor delightedly.

“One from old Barry! Bless his heart. Hear what he says, Emmie.”

It was at the pleasant tea hour, while he opened more and more
letters, that she asked about the date entered in her memorandum
book before the death of his father. She wished to know if he had
been thinking specially of home on that night of April 18-19.

“Well, you know, I was thinking about you all the time, off and on;
but I can’t say I remember thinking about you more on one day than
another.... Postmark, Clapham, S. W.!” He was opening a letter.
“No. You see, we had our work cut out for us. Our thoughts were
pretty well occupied. By Jove. This is from dear old Cairns. I must
write to Cairns--a special invitation for Cairns. What!”

He was like a child when it came to opening the presents. He could
not wait a moment. He burst the stout string with his hands, he
made the brown paper explode in tatters, he flung the tissue all
over the room. His litter drove Louisa to distraction.

“What the devil are these? Menu-card holders! What the devil shall
we do with them? All the same, deuced kind of her. Mrs. Slane-King!
Yes.”

He was also like a child--and a spoilt child too--with his
press-cuttings. He had mock-modest smiles as he read the eulogies.

“‘A glory to the Empire!’ That’s very handsome of them to say that.
Emmie, that tickles my vanity.” Then he roared with laughter. “How
small we are, Emmie; how vain, how jealous. But you must check
me. Hold me on a leash. Don’t let me gas about things down in
Devonshire when I begin to get old. Watch me then--and don’t let me
develop into a twaddling old bore.”

He went on with the letters and parcels.

“Look here! Hamilton! ‘I send this tribute from an old ship-mate.
Hamilton!’ Now that’s very kind of Hamilton to remember me.”

They all remembered him. No one forgot him--in his success.

       *       *       *       *       *

On that first Sunday of their banns they sat in the church side
by side; not minding now who saw them together, emancipated,
acknowledging a companionship that had lasted during so many years.
More than a quarter of a century’s habit had not destroyed its
freshness or robbed it of its charm; essentially their feelings at
this hour were those of boy and girl lovers. Outwardly old, they
were inwardly young.

Mildred Beckett, with her husband, was seated quite near in a
side pew a little ahead, and looking round and watching them now
and then she saw Emmie find his place for him in the prayer-book
and hand him the book. Others too, many others, noticed them; not
knowing who they were, failing to recognize Dyke--for, however
famous a man is, however frequently photographed, and even filmed,
there will still be people who do not know him by sight. But they
were struck by the strong note of individuality--a couple that
somehow _made_ you think about them--this fine big old chap, with
his shock of grey hair, intrepid blue eyes, and queer-coloured
beard; and the tall, thin, faded maiden lady.

“I publish the banns of marriage between--” The clergyman had begun
it, and Mildred looked round. The clergyman paused, as if startled.

Anthony Dyke was standing up. Emmie gently pulled his coat, and
whispered “Sit down, dear.”

“The banns,” he said, in a gruff whisper, and because of his
deafness louder than was necessary. “Get up, yourself.”

“No, dear,” she whispered, in a flutter. “It’s not done.”

But he was offering her his hand, as if to assist her, again
inviting her to rise. It was the old country custom, still
prevalent in the west of England when he was a boy, or at
least practised in his father’s church. Gentle and simple, the
young squire and the colonel’s daughter, the farm-hand and the
dairy-maid, they all used to stand up to hear their banns read
out--to let neighbours see who they were, to show that they
themselves had nothing to be ashamed of, and that they were proud
of each other. Dyke, in the Antarctic and other remote places, had
not learnt that the practice was no longer usual and proper.

Then Miss Verinder, comprehending the cause of his solecism, rose
at once; doing what she had always done for his sake, smashing
through the barriers of convention, trampling etiquette under foot,
caring not twopence halfpenny what anybody else thought about it.
She stood by his side, proudly, yet demurely, as ready now to brave
the world, to defy the universe, as she had been twenty-seven years
ago.

Mildred, looking round, watched them; and because of her own
happiness and something that seemed to her very wonderful in the
expression of those two faces, she unexpectedly began to cry. As
she said afterwards, the thing seemed to her, somehow, so sweet and
touching.

The clergyman, after clearing his throat, had gone straight ahead
with the little list:

“...Also between Anthony Penfold Dyke, widower, of the parish
of Endells, in Devonshire, ...and Emmeline Constance Verinder,
spinster, of this parish.”



Transcriber’s Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors have been repaired. Inconsistent
hyphenation and period spelling was retained. Where misprinted
and missing words had obvious substitutions, they are listed
below. There are still several places in the text where missing
or misprinted words could not be replaced with certainty of the
author’s intention, and they have been left as the printer printed
them.

“ne’er-do-weel” changed to “ne’er-do-well” on page 4. (even a
ne’er-do-well nephew)

“happn” changed to “happen” on page 17. (who can say what would
happen)

“nonetity” changed to “nonentity” on page 51. (good-natured
nonentity like Pratt)

“speak” changed to “speaking” on page 68. (the guileless manner of
speaking about them)

“that” changed to “than” on page 70. (No more than that? Very good.)

Extra “you” removed from page 85. (That’s why I beg you to bear
with me)

“omnius” changed to “ominous” on page 101. (that ominous date of
September Fifteen)

Missing word “go” added to page 115. (Then when you go to the Opera)

“is” changed to “if” on page 116. (That is, if you don’t mind
paying for it)

“or” changed to “and” on page 116. (for more tea and picked up and
began to eat another cake)

“that” changed to “than” on page 117. (Better perhaps than he knew
himself.)

“bicuits” changed to “biscuits” on page 136. (She lived on tea and
biscuits)

“spendid” changed to “splendid” on page 147. (it was quite splendid
of her)

“An” changed to “And” on page 158. (And so it was day after day)

“breach” changed to “breech” on page 215. (he opened the breech of
the weapon)

“constructed” changed to “constricted” on page 219 (the roadway
that she used to think so wide had constricted)

“inmmense” changed to “immense” on page 235. (to enjoy the immense
comfort)

“be” changed to “he” on page 240. (Then soon he began to suffer in
health)

“suspicous” changed to “suspicious” on page 252. (people were
naturally most suspicious)

“gentleman” changed to “gentlemen” on page 261. (Those scientific
gentlemen had squabbled among themselves)

“mysterously” changed to “mysteriously” on page 266. (being thus
mysteriously aided)

Extra “not” removed from page 272. (as if not noticing)

Extra “hair” removed from page 272. (the grey hair did not make him
look any older)

“Shackelton” changed to “Shackleton” on page 274. (Lucky beggar,
Shackleton)

Missing “of” added to page 276. (She uttered one of her faint
little cries)

“be” changed to “he” on page 283. (he embarrassed himself badly)

“pertubed” changed to “perturbed” on page 290. (perturbed but brave)

“Lousia” changed to “Louisa” on page 293. (“What’s the matter with
you?” asked Louisa)

“be” changed to “he” on page 300. (Then he became more impressive
than ever)

“Armstice” changed to “Armistice” on page 311. (that first
Christmas after the Armistice)

“cirlce” changed to “circle” on page 311. (formed a dense half
circle of eager shining faces)

“pertubed” changed to “perturbed” on page 322. (Mr. Dyke was
greatly perturbed)

“you” changed to “your” on page 324. (the shining crown on your
dear head)

“Milded” changed to “Mildred” on page 332. (So she offered Mildred)

“at is” changed to “as it” on page 334. (That is as it should be.)

Extra word "the" removed from page 335. (no more of the these
clandestine meetings)

“sympathically” changed to “sympathetically” on page 346. (to throb
or shiver sympathetically)

“it” changed to “is” on page 350. (“Oh, but my wish is that it’ll
be a great success.”)

“his” changed to “him” on page 359. (Emmie started, and looked at
him in astonishment)





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